Exit poll: Most Ohio voters still largely favor legal abortion

An electorate driven by continued discontent at the overturn of Roe v. Wade last year turned out to help enshrine reproductive rights into Ohio’s state constitution, according to the initial results of CNN’s Ohio exit poll.

CNN projects that the ballot measure Issue 1 will pass, preventing the Buckeye State from restricting abortion access before fetal viability, which doctors believe to be around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. After viability, the state would be able to restrict abortion access, unless the patient’s life or health are at risk.

A year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, voters in Ohio who turned out for Tuesday’s election are still feeling the sting.

Roughly 6 in 10 expressed negative feelings about the court’s decision, including about 4 in 10 who called themselves outright angry about it – nearly identical to the sentiments among midterm voters in Ohio last year. By contrast, fewer than 20% of Ohio voters this year said they were enthusiastic about the 2022 decision.

Amid that political environment, support for Issue 1 (indicated with a “yes” vote) was nearly universal among Democrats and self-described liberal voters, with nearly 70% of self-described moderates and more than 6 in 10 political independents who voted also backing the initiative. They were joined by a significant minority of Republicans, with nearly 1 in 5 GOP voters backing “yes.” Nearly 6 in 10 parents of children under 18 voted in support of the abortion rights initiative, as did a slim majority of suburban women.

Ohio voters younger than 30 were at least as much of a presence in this year’s election as they were in last year’s midterms. More than three-quarters of them voted “yes,” as did roughly two-thirds of those voters ages 30 to 44 and about half of those 45 and older. (Voters younger than 30 were even more broadly supportive of another Ohio ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana, the exit poll finds. CNN projects that measure, Issue 2, has also passed.)

While backing for Issue 1 was somewhat broader among female than male voters, race and education also served as dividing lines. About 80% of voters of color supported the abortion rights initiative, as did about 63% of White female voters with a college degree and nearly 6 in 10 White male college graduates. By contrast, White women without college degrees were about evenly split. White men without college degrees were among the relatively few demographic groups to solidly vote “no” on the initiative.

A roughly 6 in 10 majority of Ohio voters this year said that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. About 96% who said abortion should always be legal voted to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution, while about 95% who said abortion should mostly or always be illegal voted against the initiative. Voters who said abortion should be legal in most, but not all, cases backed Issue 1 with a slightly less overwhelming majority of roughly 83%.

Notably, the Ohio electorate’s broad support for legalized abortion does not translate into similarly broad support for the Democratic Party to handle the issue. Voters trust Democrats over the GOP by only a relatively modest, single-digit margin on abortion.

By contrast, Ohio voters give the GOP the edge when it comes to which party they trust to handle the economy. Slightly less than a quarter of voters said their family’s financial situation has improved over the past three years, with about 4 in 10 saying things have worsened, and the rest that they’ve remained about the same.

Only about 4 in 10 Ohio voters approve of President Joe Biden’s job performance, similar to his standing among the electorate in the 2022 midterms. Only about a quarter of voters said they think Biden should be running for president again. But former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, fares little better: Only about a third of this electorate in Ohio thinks he should be running to retake the White House. Trump carried Ohio by 8 points in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

The Ohio CNN Exit Poll is a combination of in-person interviews with Election Day voters and early in-person voters, along with telephone and online polls measuring the views of absentee by-mail and early voters. It was conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool. In-person interviews on Election Day were conducted at a random sample of 35 Ohio polling locations among 668 Election Day voters and at a random sample of 10 early in-person voting locations, among 1,188 early in-person voters. The results also include 842 interviews with early and absentee voters conducted by phone, online or by text. Results for the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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