A New Survey Suggests Abortion Could Be a Key Issue in Oregon This Fall

Most voters support reproductive rights, and they're motivated to turn out and vote.

By Julia Silverman August 16, 2022

Reproductive rights could emerge as a tipping point issue in the gubernatorial election this fall.

The national uproar over reproductive rights has the potential to reverberate in Oregon’s general election this November, according to a new voter survey.

Oregon already has some of the strongest abortion rights protection laws in the nation, and requires private health insurance and state Medicaid to cover the cost of the procedure. Given redistricting, control of the state legislature is likely to remain firmly in Democratic hands, which means that the right to seek an abortion in the state is not in immediate jeopardy. (Abortion rights advocates do say that local wait times to have the procedure could get longer as abortion seekers from other states pour into the Pacific Northwest for care.)

But the threat to reproductive rights is a potent political issue—consider Kansas, a conservative-leaning state where voters turned out in droves during a recent primary to squash a proposed ban on the procedure. And in a year when Oregon’s gubernatorial race is expected to be very tight given the presence of three credible candidates, it could emerge as a decisive issue and turnout driver for key voters.

A survey of 1,572 Oregon residents conducted in mid-July by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center found that 72 percent of respondents felt abortion should be legal in some or all cases, a stronger showing of support than the 61 percent of voters nationwide who favor reproductive rights.

And though a plurality of voters (46 percent) told survey takers that the Supreme Court’s actions wouldn’t affect their voting decisions in November, nearly as many Oregonians (44 percent) said it would be a factor. Moreover, those who said it would be a consideration were ten times more likely to vote in the general election, according to the poll results. 

The poll also found that Democrats and women were the most motivated to vote in November, with 54 percent of Democrats planning to cast their ballots and 43 percent of women, compared with 38 percent of Independents, 30 percent of Republican,s and 37 percent of men. 

Two of the three candidates for governor—Democrat Tina Kotek and Democrat-turned non-affiliated candidate Betsy Johnson, have trumpeted their support for reproductive rights in interviews and via social media. Republican Christine Drazan has not focused on the issue, but did greet the news of the Supreme Court’s decision by tweeting “Life wins!”

That stance could spell trouble for Drazan, particularly in the voter-rich Portland suburbs. The poll found that 65 percent of voters living in Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah Counties said they were likely to favor candidates who supported reproductive rights; statewide, 58 percent of Oregonians said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supported the right to choose whether or not to get an abortion.

The poll’s margin of error was 2.47 percent.