Abortion Ranks Among Top Issues for Young Women Voters

Students outside a polling location at Denver East High School on Nov. 8, 2022, in Denver. Ahead of the 2024 elections, about half of young Americans indicate they will “definitely be voting.” (Michael Ciaglo / Getty Images)

The Harvard Youth Poll, the longest running survey of youth attitudes (18-29) related to politics and public service, was released on Thursday. By and large, the results show an engaged young electorate concerned about the state of affairs in the U.S. and aligned on issues of economic and gender equality. 

Here are some of our top takeaways.

1. Young people—especially young women—say they will support Biden’s reelection.

Approximately half (53 percent) of young Americans indicate they will “definitely be voting” in the 2024 general election for president. This number is about the same as it was in the spring of 2020, a very high youth turnout year.

Among all Americans under age 30, support for President Joe Biden is up 24 percentage points over former President Donald Trump. 

First coined by Ellie Smeal, publisher of Ms. and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, the “gender gap” in voting refers to the difference in the way women and men vote. When it comes to the Biden versus Trump rematch, the gender gap is pronounced: President Biden’s lead among young men is 6 points; among young women his lead is 33 points, according to the Harvard poll.

2. Economic concerns and reproductive freedom are top issues for young voters.

In an open-ended question about which national issue concerned them most, 27 percent of young Americans volunteered something related to the economy. From there, pollsters identified 16 prominent areas of concern and, in a series of randomized match-ups, asked survey respondents to identify which of the two issues was more important to them. Inflation won every time—except when paired with women’s reproductive rights, where it was considered the more important issue: 57 percent to 43 percent. 

Among young women, women’s reproductive rights are among their top four issues.

The table shows the percentage of the time an issue was rated as more important than the issue it was matched against. Young women are most concerned about: inflation, healthcare, gun violence, reproductive rights and housing.

3. Young people are concerned about the state of U.S. democracy.

Forty-six percent of respondents called the U.S. “a democracy in trouble.”

“Young Americans are emerging from a pandemic that has tested our trust in democratic institutions and the bonds that unite us,” said Anil Cacodcar, student chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project. “Despite this, young Americans are more ready than ever to engage with these institutions to push for the change we want to see in the world.”

4. Young people are increasingly rejecting gender stereotypes, except among young Republicans.

Overall, most youth reject gender-based stereotypes. But among young Republicans, traditional beliefs still remain.

  • Twenty-six percent of Republican respondents say women should prioritize children over joining the workforce; just 7 percent of Democrats agree.
  • Thirty-three percent of Republicans think women’s emotions make it more challenging to lead; 6 percent of Democrats agree.
  • Almost half—46 percent—of Republicans say women are too promiscuous these days, and 14 percent of Democrats agree. Separating the results by gender does not change the results: Nearly identical numbers of young Republican men (46 percent) and young Republican women (47 percent) agree. But separating the promiscuity question by party does: Only 18 percent of Democratic young men and 11 percent of Democratic women agree.

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Roxanne Szal (or Roxy) is the managing digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.