Kansas voters in small cities and rural areas swung further from the Republican Party vote just two years ago than their more urban counterparts in Tuesday’s defeat of an anti-abortion state constitutional amendment.
Statewide, the amendment, which would have removed abortion rights from the Kansas Constitution, failed by about 16 percentage points, 42% to 58%.
Voters in large and medium-sized metropolitan areas defeated the amendment 2 to 1. Voters in small metropolitan areas split evenly over the amendment. And rural (nonmetropolitan) voters favored the anti-abortion amendment 58% to 42%.
But the bottom-line vote is only part of the picture. Another story arises from how much the anti-abortion amendment underperformed compared to Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. And by that measure, Kansas’ small-city and rural voters shifted further away from the Republican Party than voters in bigger cities.
Republican Trump won Kansas by 14 points, 56% to 42% in the 2020 presidential election. (The total percent is less than 100 because it doesn’t include third-party candidates.)
The anti-abortion constitutional amendment was thought to be a bedrock Republican issue. The Kansas party initiated the referendum and scheduled it for the August primary, as opposed to the November general election, thinking a highly motivated base would make up a larger proportion of the turn out and get the amendment passed.
The strategy didn’t work. Turnout was extremely high – double the last midterm election. The anti-abortion vote shifted 30 points away from the support Trump received in 2020. And the amendment failed.
Across the state, the pro-abortion vote outperformed Biden’s vote in 2020. In other words, the issue of abortion rights was far more popular than the Democratic candidate.
And the anti-abortion amendment was far less popular than the Republican presidential candidate.
Small metropolitan and rural areas had the greatest shift away from the 2020 Republican vote. The pro-abortion rights vote was about 19 points more popular than Biden in 2020 in these smaller communities (see graph above). And the anti-abortion vote was about 17 points less popular than Trump (see graph at the top of the story).
From this data, we may be able to draw a couple conclusions. One is that politicians can’t assume small-city and rural voters are in lock-step behind banning abortion. And, two, voters behave differently when they have the chance to vote straight issues without party labels. The proposed constitutional amendment was nonpartisan.
One caveat is that turnout affects elections. The high turnout means there were likely some different types of voters than the ones who typically go to the polls for a relatively low-key midterm primary.
The abortion vote in Kansas will certainly inform party strategy in the general election in November. Democrats are concluding that the Kansas vote means they should be campaigning more on abortion rights. And others think the Supreme Court’s dismantling of Roe v. Wade may motivate a different type of turnout in the November election to blunt some of the Republican momentum in congressional elections.
This data tells us that the vote in small cities and rural areas is also up for grabs.