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Poll: a growing number of Democratic voters are prioritizing gender-related issues

The percentage of voters ranking women’s issues as a top priority jumped to 14 percent in the past month.

Rallies Across U.S. Protest New Restrictive Abortion Laws
Abortion rights protesters gather at the Supreme Court on May 21, 2019, in Washington, DC. 
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Gender-related policy could play an important role in the 2020 election, according to a new Morning Consult poll that found Democratic voters are placing increasing focus on women’s issues as they choose their favored candidates in a crowded primary field.

The poll, which canvasses more than 10,000 voters on a weekly basis, found that 6 percent of Democratic voters listed women’s issues as their top priority at the beginning of May, compared to 14 percent that did so around the start of June. Although most voters still rank the economy and health care as their top priorities, that uptick marks a major increase in focus on women’s issues, a policy area that encompasses reproductive rights, pay equity, workplace discrimination, and maternal mortality.

The percentage of voters ranking women’s issues as a top priority more than doubled in the past month.
Morning Consult

This spike comes in the wake of numerous states passing abortion laws that sharply restrict women’s reproductive rights, drawing renewed attention to the need to defend abortion protections.

In recent months, Alabama approved a near-total ban on abortion, while Louisiana, Georgia, and Ohio passed laws that bar abortion as early as six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant. These changes have swept states across the country, in part because conservative lawmakers have been emboldened by Trump’s presidency and a solidly conservative Supreme Court majority, with certain lawmakers hoping to use these laws to challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that established modern abortion protections.

Multiple polls have shown that the majority of Americans disagree with the absolutist nature of the Alabama law. A recent poll from YouGov and Take Back the Courts, a progressive group, found Democrats and independents were generally in agreement about the need to strike down the law. According to the survey results, a majority of Democrats and independents overwhelmingly support courts blocking Alabama’s law, while nearly 40 percent of Republicans do as well.

Americans are for leaving federal protections governing abortions in place, in general. As a May CBS News poll found, 67 percent of people support upholding Roe, which is consistent with polling that took place last summer ahead of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, when 71 percent of people said they wanted the decision to remain intact.

Increased attention on abortion rights and gender equity, more broadly, has prompted 2020 candidates to focus heavily on these topics. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are among those who’ve unveiled detailed policy proposals that explain how they would reinforce abortion protections if they were elected president. Gillibrand has proposed creating a new federal funding stream that would ensure access to reproductive health centers in every state, and Harris has proposed putting a check on states’ ability to impose laws that contradict Roe.

Gillibrand and Harris are also part of a record-breaking wave of women running for the presidency, and have increased the spotlight on gender-specific issues like equal pay and maternal mortality while on the campaign trail. Recently, Gillibrand advocated for working to ensure more women enter politics (and that more women hold positions of power in general), during a Fox News town hall.

If the Morning Consult survey is any indication, voters are poised to pay even more attention to such topics as the primary cycle unfolds.