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Abortion no longer turning Michigan women out to vote, poll finds

Michigan women are far more concerned about inflation and the rising cost of household expenses than they are about abortion, with a majority saying they believe abortion is now a settled issue in the state, according to a recent poll.

That’s a big change from just two years ago, when nearly 70% said ensuring the right to reproductive freedom was an important part of why they turned out to vote. That’s when Michigan voters passed Proposal 3, a measure enshrining broad reproductive rights in the state constitution, just months after the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade.

“We really wanted to see if, now that abortion is not going to be directly on the ballot, if Michigan women were still motivated by this issue to turnout,” said Ashley Kirzinger, associate director of polling at KFF, a nonprofit health policy research and news organization. (Pollsters surveyed 876 Michigan women voters between May 23 – June 5 this year, both online and by telephone, with results weighted to reflect voter demographics.)

More than 40% of all women voters say inflation is now the most important issue, with just 10% saying abortion is the biggest factor driving their vote. And 60% of all women said they believe the issue of whether abortion is legal in Michigan has been decided.

“They think the issue is settled,” Kirzinger said. “It's not their most important voting issue. Instead, the economy and inflation, the cost of household expenses, seem to be what's most pressing for them right now.”

The enthusiasm gap: nearly half of Dems disapprove of Biden’s handling of inflation 

Democratic women in Michigan approve of the job President Joe Biden is doing overall, and give him strong marks on the issues of student loan repayment, reproductive rights, and healthcare affordability. But only 17% “strongly approve” of his handling of inflation, while another 36% “somewhat approve,” and 47% of Democratic women disapprove.

Still, support is also slipping among a key demographic that President Biden will need in order to win in Michigan: Black women voters.

“That was one of the red flags that really popped out to us, is that Michigan Black women voters are much less likely to say that they plan on voting for President Biden than they were back in 2020,” Kirzinger said.

Still, Black women in Michigan are about three times as likely as white women to say a candidate’s political party is the biggest driver of their pick for president, the poll found.

“They still have positive views of the Democratic Party, and so they may turn out to vote because they're going to vote for a Democrat,” Kirzinger said. “They're just not super enthusiastic about voting for President Biden.”

And women in Michigan are concerned about threats to democracy, with 19% of all women voters in the state saying it’s their biggest issue. “So they may not be voting for President Biden, but they're voting against former President Trump,” Kirzinger said. “I think that's what's really driving the different segments of Michigan Democratic women voters.”

Republican women in Michigan, meanwhile, overwhelmingly approve of former President Donald Trump’s job as president, and especially his handling of the economy.

“There is definitely an enthusiasm gap in 2024, where Michigan Democratic women are less motivated, less enthusiastic, and less likely to say that they're going to turn out compared to 2022,” Kirzinger said. “But for Michigan Republican women, they seem more motivated, and are pretty enthusiastic about their candidate.”

What this poll should tell both parties, is that Michigan women are frustrated and anxious, Kirzinger said. “They’re struggling to provide food for their families, housing, gas, transportation costs. And so who is going to be the candidate that's going to help reduce that burden for Michigan families?” That is what “needs to be talked about, all the way down the ballot, for candidates to be successful this fall.”

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.