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Researchers from Penn's political science department recently published a study analyzing the influence of abortion on the 2022 midterm elections. 

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

A new study conducted by Penn researchers found that abortion significantly influenced votes during the 2022 elections. 

The study — published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and titled "Inflation in 2022 did not affect congressional voting, but abortion did" — was conducted by Samuel A. Stouffer Professor of Political Science and Communication Diana Mutz and Hum Rosen Professor of Political Science Edward Mansfield. Mutz and Mansfield found that opinions on abortion and the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson played a more essential role in voter behavior than economic issues.

The study challenges the widespread belief that Americans prioritize economic self-interest when choosing candidates.

“What we found, however, is that people’s views on abortion combined with the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization directly affected changes in vote choice between 2020 and 2022,” Mutz said.

Mutz also serves as the Director of the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics.

Using two waves of a probability panel survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center in 2020 and 2022, Mutz and Mansfield discovered that voters who switched their support from one party to another did so because of their stance on abortion rather than inflation issues and views on economic issues.

When the polls opened in 2022, despite the ongoing inflation, about 55% of the national probability sample attributed the country’s financial difficulties to “neither party” or “both parties.” This indicated that most voters acted based on their pre-existing economic beliefs, either entirely blaming the opposing party or assigning no responsibility to any party at all.

In contrast, policy changes regarding abortion and the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision had a significant impact on voter support during the midterm elections. The study found evidence that voters who supported keeping abortions legal were more likely to switch from voting Republican to Democratic. The same applies to those opposed to legal abortions, as they tended to shift their support to Republican candidates. 

However, Mutz emphasized that any issue can influence voters in both directions.

“It is often misleading for journalists to imply that a given political issue helped one candidate and hurt another,” she said.

She uses the economy as an example, explaining that while it is assumed that one party might face criticism and the other gain an advantage, in reality, voters rely on their pre-existing views of economic issues, which affects both parties similarly and does not give a clear edge to either.

The study scrutinizes the importance placed on economic factors in the analyses of United States voting behavior, especially given the inaccurate predictions that the Democrats would be defeated in the 2022 elections.