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Poll analysis: Policy goals voters want to hear about in first GOP debate

"Abortion ranks low in importance for GOP primary voters, with fewer than half supporting a national ban, according to a CBS News poll."

The 2024 Republican presidential primary is set to be an important contest, especially considering the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. This ruling was seen as a victory for the anti-abortion rights movement, and most Republicans were in agreement. However, as we approach the first Republican debate, the question arises: how much do rank-and-file Republican primary voters actually want to hear about stopping abortions? And would they support a national abortion ban?

Surprisingly, our latest CBS News Poll reveals that fewer than half of the GOP primary electorate would prefer a nominee who supports a national abortion ban. In fact, for many voters, the candidates' stance on abortion policy doesn't matter much at all. When asked about a range of policy goals, plans to stop abortions ranked the lowest in importance. Other policies, such as plans to lower inflation, stop immigration, and reduce violent crime, were considered more significant.

This shift in priorities is notable, considering that the abortion issue played a significant role in motivating Democrats during the 2022 midterms. However, with the passage of state ballot measures protecting abortion rights, the issue has become less salient among the GOP primary electorate.

So where do Republicans actually stand on abortion? Historically, most Republicans have held the view that abortion should be mostly illegal, which differs from the broader public opinion that supports the legality of abortion. The overturning of Roe v. Wade is seen by many Republicans as a negative development for the country.

However, there is some division within the Republican primary voters, particularly when it comes to a national abortion ban. Roughly one-third of the Republican primary electorate prefers a GOP nominee who supports a national ban. This group is largely made up of evangelicals and the very conservative members of the party. Interestingly, seven out of ten of these voters place high importance on hearing about candidate plans to stop abortions, although it still ranks behind other policy goals.

On the other hand, there is a smaller but significant portion of primary voters who want a nominee who opposes a national ban. This group is predominantly made up of women and moderates within the party. They are less interested in hearing the candidates talk about stopping abortions during the debate.

Lastly, there is a group of primary voters for whom a candidate's stance on an abortion ban doesn't matter. This group places the least importance on hearing candidate plans to stop abortions, with only 8% considering it very important. In contrast, 92% of this group prioritize hearing about plans to lower inflation.

While abortion may not be a priority issue for the GOP primary electorate right now, it is expected to be a major topic in the 2024 general election. Democrats consider it a top priority and will likely make it a central part of their campaign next year.

It is important to note that this CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,061 U.S. adult residents, including 538 likely Republican primary voters. The sample was weighted based on gender, age, race, education, and past vote. The margin of error is ±3.0 points for the overall sample and ±5.7 points for likely Republican primary voters.

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