U.S. Democrats' support for abortion grows, low election priority: Reuters/Ipsos

FILE PHOTO - Pro-life and pro-choice protesters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court waiting for the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra case, which remains pending, in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Toya Sarno Jordan

By Maria Caspani

(Reuters) - U.S. Democrats' support for abortion rights grew in the last two years, but for most it will be a low priority in the November mid-term election compared with issues such as healthcare and the economy, a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll shows.

The poll found that 68 percent of Democrats said in July that abortion should be legal, up from 60 percent in a similar poll conducted in June 2016.

But just 9 percent of registered Democratic voters cited abortion as the most important issue to determine how they will vote in November, according to an ongoing Reuters/Ipsos poll gauging Americans' top priorities in the midterm elections.

Sixteen percent said their top priority was healthcare and 12 percent said it was the economy.

"Abortion rights have been kind of an also-ran issue," said Jeremy Freese, a professor of sociology at Stanford University. "I'm not saying it's not there as an issue, but I wouldn't say that it's risen to the level of being one of the defining issues."

Some Democrats, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, have made abortion rights front and centre in their campaigns ahead of November, hoping to energise supporters after U.S. President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

If Kavanaugh, a conservative, replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy on the top U.S. court, he could tip the balance and help overturn the landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.

Campaigning on abortion rights might benefit some Democrats' fundraising efforts for the mid-term elections, Freese said, but it is hard to gauge whether it will further motivate people to vote.

"I don't know ... how much that will resonate with voters beyond what it already has," Freese said, adding that voter enthusiasm is already high among Democrats eager to regain control of Congress.

Some 52 percent of U.S. adults said abortion should be legal, according to the poll, while 61 percent of Republicans said abortion in general should be illegal, little changed since June 2016.

According to Reuters/Ipsos data, 7 percent of U.S. registered voters cited abortion and other social issues as the most important factors determining their vote.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll surveyed 7,543 adults online across the United States in July and it has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of about 1 percentage point.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Chris Kahn and Susan Thomas)