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Pro-Choice VP Selection Carries Risks for Bush

Pro-Choice VP Selection Carries Risks for Bush

Nearly four in ten supporters would be "upset"

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- George W. Bush has indicated that, above all, his selection of a vice presidential running mate should "do no harm." "You want somebody who's not going to hurt you," Bush is quoted as saying in a recent Associated Press article. With pro-life activists threatening to drop their support for Bush if he selects a pro-choice running mate, Bush's comment may be an indirect reference to abortion which, at least publicly, has emerged as the thorniest issue in his selection process in recent weeks. Reform Party challenger Pat Buchanan has raised the stakes by threatening to draw pro-life votes away from the Republican ticket if Bush selects someone like the pro-choice governor of Pennsylvania, Thomas Ridge.

A recent Gallup poll, conducted July 14-16, finds that if history is any gauge, there is little risk that many of Bush's current supporters will change their minds and vote for someone else solely on the basis of his vice presidential choice. Only 8% of Americans (including 8% of Republican voters and 9% of Democrats) say they have ever dropped their support for a presidential candidate on account of the running mate.

With the race for president appearing to tighten in recent weeks, however, even a small shift in votes away from Bush has the potential to cost him the election. Gallup's latest poll shows that Bush's lead over Al Gore in the race for president has fallen from 12 points late last month to just two points today. Forty-five percent of likely voters now intend to support Bush and 43% favor Gore, with 5% going to Green Party nominee Ralph Nader and 3% to Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan.

Picking a Pro-Choice VP is the Riskier Option
The pro-life position prevails among the ranks of Bush supporters. More than half of voters who are now backing Bush, 53%, describe their views on abortion as "pro-life," compared to 39% who are "pro-choice" (the rest don't use either phrase to describe themselves). By contrast, Al Gore's voter base is overwhelmingly pro-choice, by a 65% to 27% margin.

Gallup probed the issue further by asking Bush's supporters about the importance of the vice presidential candidate's position on abortion to their vote. The result: while most voters say they will stick with Bush regardless of the abortion views of his running mate, there appears to be more risk involved in choosing someone who is pro-choice. Close to four in ten Bush voters, 39%, describe themselves as pro-life and say that they would be disturbed by Bush choosing a running mate who "disagrees with your opinion on abortion." Only 18% of Bush voters are pro-choice and say the same thing. Thus, Bush risks antagonizing more than twice as many supporters if he opts for a pro-choice candidate than if he selects a pro-life candidate.

The percentage of both of these groups who go so far as to say they would change their mind and not vote for Bush because of the vice presidential nominee's abortion position, however, is relatively small: 11% overall, including 8% of Bush voters who are pro-life and 3% of Bush voters who are pro-choice.

The difference between the 8% of pro-life voters who would potentially abandon Bush and the 3% of pro-choice voters who would do the same is not statistically significant given the sample size of total Bush voters involved. However, theoretically, the net loss of 5% of Bush's voters over a pro-choice selection would convert Bush's slim lead over Gore to at least a 1-point deficit -- even more if those voters switch directly to Gore rather than go to a third party candidate such as Buchanan. However, this does not take into account the potential gain in support Bush might earn from moderate independents and Democrats by signaling through a pro-choice vice presidential pick that he is less than hard-core in his pro-life stance.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,063 adults, 18 years and older, conducted July 14-16, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

If George W. Bush chooses a vice presidential running mate who disagrees with your opinion on abortion, which of the following would best describe your reaction [RANDOM ORDER: (1) It would not affect you and you would still vote for Bush (or), (2) You would be upset but would probably still vote for Bush (or), (3) You would not vote for Bush]?

BASED ON -- 508 -- GEORGE W. BUSH SUPPORTERS; ± 5 PCT. PTS

 

 

Not affect, would vote for Bush

Upset but would vote for Bush


Would not vote for Bush


No
opinion

         

All Bush voters

39%

48

12

1

         

Pro-Choice Bush voters

53%

38

8

1

Pro-Life Bush voters

24%

58

16

2



ABORTION VIEWS BY EFFECT OF VP, ABORTION VIEWS ON SUPPORT FOR BUSH; PERCENTAGES BASED ON ALL BUSH VOTERS

 

 


Pro-Choice


Pro-Life

No opinion on abortion

 

%

%

%

       

No effect

21

13

5

Upset, but still vote for Bush

15

31

2

Would not vote for Bush

3

8

1

No opinion

*

1

0



Have you ever changed your mind and voted for a presidential candidate -- who you would not have voted for otherwise -- because of that candidate's selection of a vice presidential running mate?

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Jul 14-16

9%

88

3



Have you changed your mind and NOT voted for a presidential candidate -- who you would have voted for otherwise -- because of that candidate's selection of a vice presidential running mate?

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Jul 14-16

8%

89

3



*Less than 0.5%

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/2713/prochoice-selection-carries-risks-bush.aspx
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