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Published November 30, 2022
The abortion issue has been a matter of national political debate over the past five decades, with the debate intensifying with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the precedent set in Roe v. Wade. Public opinion in Wyoming regarding abortion has changed little over the past 20 years, however, according to surveys conducted by the University of Wyoming.
The statewide telephone survey of 524 Wyoming citizens was conducted in October, with follow-up interviews conducted after the Nov. 8 general election. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
“Our most recent poll of Wyoming residents shows respondents evenly divided between two perspectives on abortion policy,” says Jim King, the survey’s director and a UW professor of political science. “Thirty-six percent view abortion as a matter of personal choice, and 36 percent accept abortion in cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the woman.”
He adds that 19 percent favor abortion if other reasons are clearly established, while 7 percent prefer abortion be banned altogether. According to King, the most recent survey’s findings mirror those from 20 years ago.
“In our 2002 survey, 39 percent of respondents said abortion was a matter of personal choice, 33 percent accepted the exceptions for rape or incest, and 11 percent favored a total ban on abortion,” he says.
When the margins of error in the surveys are taken into consideration, the results show no change in opinion on abortion over these two decades.
“For the most part, the Republican Party has adopted platforms that have increasingly been opposed to abortion, while the Democrats have generally supported the pro-choice position,” King adds. “We see similar partisan divisions within the Wyoming electorate.”
For instance, seven of eight Democrats in the sample, 88 percent, said abortion should be a matter of personal choice, while one of five Republicans, 20 percent, hold this view. Instead, nearly half of Republicans, 48 percent, favored allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the woman, and 20 percent indicated a more ambiguous response that abortion might be permitted if a “need could be established.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization returns questions of abortion policy to elected representatives. Opinions on abortion had a small but noticeable impact on voters’ choices between Republican Harriet Hageman and Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull.
Democrats overwhelmingly viewed abortion as a matter of personal choice and cast their ballots for Grey Bull. More than a quarter of pro-choice Republicans, 29 percent, reported voting for Grey Bull as well. A similar pattern is evident among independents, with Grey Bull receiving the votes of 88 percent of independents favoring the pro-choice position. Survey respondents favoring other positions on abortion supported Hageman by wide margins.
Opinion on the abortion question had little bearing on the election for governor, as substantial majorities within each position on abortion favored incumbent Mark Gordon over Democratic challenger Theresa Livingston.
The Survey Research Center of UW’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center administered the survey, which was sponsored by UW’s School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies. Biennial surveys of Wyoming residents have been conducted by the Political Science Program at UW since 1972.