With women’s reproductive health reemerging as a heated issue this year in policy debates and news reports, this month’s Kaiser Health Tracking Poll assesses women’s perceptions and reactions to that attention and its potential impact on the upcoming presidential election.
Three in ten women (31 percent) overall believe that there is currently a “wide-scale effort to limit women’s reproductive health choices and services, such as abortion, family planning, and contraception” in the U.S. A larger share (45 percent) say there are some groups that would like to limit women’s reproductive health choices and services but it is not a wide-scale effort, while others volunteer that no such effort exists (7 percent) or decline to offer an opinion (17 percent). Women who say they are liberals (49%) are far more likely than women who say they are conservatives (18%) to perceive a wide-scale effort to limit services.
For many women, women’s reproductive health issues resonate on a personal level, with 42 percent reporting that they took some action in the past six months in reaction to something they’ve seen, heard or read. This includes attempting to influence a friend or family member’s opinion (23 percent), donating money to a non-profit working on reproductive health issues (15 percent), and contacting an elected official (14 percent). Fewer say they’ve changed their mind about who to vote for, donated to a political candidate or group, or contacted a media outlet.
For now, female voters (like male voters) continue to focus on the economy above all else as an election issue, with several other issues (including health care generally) rising above women’s reproductive health. Six in ten women voters name the economy and/or jobs as the issue they’d most like to hear about from candidates, compared to just 5 percent who name women’s health or other women’s issues (including abortion). To the extent this becomes a voting issue, female registered voters give President Barack Obama a clear advantage over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney: more than half say they trust the president more to “look out for the best interests of women” and to make decisions about women’s reproductive health in particular, while closer to a quarter pick Governor Romney.
Other findings from the poll include:
- The share of the public with a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) dropped 5 percentage points this month, with unfavorable views now outnumbering favorable ones by a small margin (44 percent versus 37 percent).
- The idea of defunding the law, as discussed by some members of Congress, is as unpopular now as it was a year ago, with roughly six in ten (58 percent) saying they disapprove of cutting off funding as a way to stop some or all of the law from being put into place, and about a third (32 percent) saying they approve of this strategy.
The poll was designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and was conducted May 8-14, 2012, among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,218 adults living in the United States.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a leader in health policy analysis, health journalism and communication, is dedicated to filling the need for trusted, independent information on the major health issues facing our nation and its people.