We Did an Experiment to See How Much Democracy and Abortion Matter to Voters

Voters usually penalize those supporting electoral subversion.Credit…Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times

Do abortion and democracy matter to voters?

If you look at the results of New York Times/Siena College polling, the answer often seems to be “not really.”

Around 40 percent of voters agreed that Donald J. Trump was “bad” for democracy in our latest poll. Only around a quarter said that issues like democracy and abortion were more important to their vote than the economy.

But in election after election, the final vote tallies seem to tell a very different story. Last fall, Democrats excelled when abortion and democracy were at stake, even though our pre-election polls offered little indication that these issues were driving voters. It raises the possibility that the usual poll questions simply failed to reveal the importance of abortion, democracy and perhaps other issues as well.

With that in mind, we tried an experiment in our latest Times/Siena poll. We looked at the persuadable voters — those who were undecided or who said they were open to supporting the other candidate — and split them into two groups. We gave each group a set of two hypothetical Republican candidates based on views on abortion and democracy.

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