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Abortion a Major Issue, but Not Critical to Presidential Vote of Most Americans

Abortion a Major Issue, but Not Critical to Presidential Vote of Most Americans

Still, Bush may have political edge on "partial-birth abortion" issue

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Abortion remains a contentious issue in American politics, and usually has some presence in every presidential campaign. The 2000 campaign promises to be no different, with the emerging controversy over partial-birth abortion in the courts and in Congress, and with the newly elected president poised to greatly shape the composition of the Supreme Court, which has several justices who are nearing retirement.

According to a recent Gallup poll conducted April 3-9, 2000, 53% of Americans say that a candidate's position on abortion is either an "extremely" or a "very" important influence on their vote. Another poll -- conducted March 30-April 2, 2000 -- delved deeper into the relationship between abortion and the vote. Americans were asked precisely how abortion factored into their vote decision. Among Americans likely to vote in the November election, about one in seven (14%) indicated they would vote only for a candidate who shared their views on abortion. Another 53% of likely voters said they would consider a candidate's abortion position as just one of many factors when deciding how to vote, while 31% said it would not be a major issue.

The Relationship of Abortion to the Vote
How might this play out in the November election? More than likely, the small subset of voters who will cast their ballot only for a candidate sharing their position on abortion will offset each other. Evidence of this is seen in the fact that half of this group of likely voters consider themselves "pro-life" while nearly the same percentage (49%) consider themselves "pro-choice." This hypothesis is also supported by poll data showing 50% of this group supporting Gore and 46% supporting Bush, essentially a tie given the small number of poll respondents in this category.

Among the largest group of voters -- those who will consider a candidate's abortion position as one of several factors in their vote -- again about equal proportions consider themselves to be "pro-life" (49%) and "pro-choice" (48%). However, these voters do not sort themselves out neatly according to their abortion attitudes. Bush has a definite edge in this group, as he is supported by 49% of these likely voters as opposed to 43% who support Gore. While it cannot be determined how much influence abortion will ultimately have in these voters' minds, the fact that they constitute a majority of the electorate should be encouraging for the Bush campaign.

Last, those who do not see abortion as a major issue are much more likely to call themselves "pro-choice" (54%) than "pro-life" (36%), and are also more likely to support Gore (48%) than Bush (40%). But among the two-thirds of voters who take abortion into account in their vote opinion (either exclusively or in combination with other issues), Bush has a slight lead over Gore, 48% to 45%.

With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?

 






Pro-choice







Pro-life





MIXED/ NEITHER (vol.)


DON'T KNOW WHAT TERMS
MEAN (vol.)






No opinion

Likely Voters

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

Candidate must share views

49%

50

0

1

0

One of many important factors

48%

49

1

1

1

Not a major issue

54%

36

3

5

1



If Vice President Al Gore were the Democratic Party's candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush were the Republican Party's candidate, who would you be more likely to vote for -- [Al Gore, the Democrat (or) George W. Bush, the Republican]?

As of today, do you lean more toward -- [Al Gore, the Democrat (or) George W. Bush, the Republican]?

 

 

Al
Gore

George W. Bush

OTHER (vol.)

No opinion

         

Likely Voters

       

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

       
         

Candidate must share views on abortion

50%

46

*

4

One of many important factors

43%

49

*

8

Not an issue

48%

40

*

11

         

Candidate must share/One of many factors

45%

48

*

5



Partial-Birth Abortion and the Vote
Most recently in the United States, the real battleground on the abortion issue has been over a specific form of late-term abortion, commonly known as "partial-birth abortion." This issue will likely receive increased publicity this summer once the Supreme Court hands down its ruling on the constitutionality of a Nebraska law that bans this type of procedure. President Clinton has promised to veto federal legislation that would make the procedure illegal nationwide -- legislation that has already passed in both the House and the Senate. Thus, partial-birth abortion has the potential to be an important issue in the next presidential election, especially considering that the two candidates stand on opposite sides of the controversy, with Bush in favor of banning partial-birth abortions and Gore opposed.

Americans tend to side with George W. Bush on this issue. Gallup asked Americans if they would vote for or against a law that would make it illegal to perform partial-birth abortions in the last six months of a pregnancy, if they were able to vote on the matter directly. Sixty-six percent of Americans (and 60% of likely voters) said they would vote to ban partial-birth abortions in this country, while 29% (34% of likely voters) said they would vote to keep the procedure legal.

What is the possible political impact of the partial-birth abortion controversy? Likely voters who support the ban on partial-birth abortion support Bush for president by 51% to 40% over Gore, with 9% undecided. The minority of Americans who oppose a ban favor Gore by a considerable margin, 56% to 38%. Also of note is that those who would vote for a candidate only if he shares their views on abortion and those who consider abortion in their vote calculus are strongly opposed to partial-birth abortions, registering 58% and 64% opposition, respectively. If partial-birth abortion does become a major issue in the 2000 campaign, then Bush would appear to be in the better position to capitalize on it politically.

If Vice President Al Gore were the Democratic Party's candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush were the Republican Party's candidate, who would you be more likely to vote for -- [Al Gore, the Democrat (or) George W. Bush, the Republican]?

As of today, do you lean more toward -- [Al Gore, the Democrat (or) George W. Bush, the Republican]?

 

 

Al
Gore

George W. Bush

OTHER (vol.)

No opinion

         

Likely Voters

       

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

       
         

Vote to make partial-birth abortion illegal

40%

51

*

9

Vote to keep legal

56%

38

*

6

         


If you could vote on this issue directly, would you vote for or against the following: a law which would make it illegal to perform a specific abortion procedure conducted in the last six months of pregnancy known as a "partial-birth abortion," except in cases necessary to save the life of the mother?

 

Vote for/
Make procedure illegal

Vote against/ Keep procedure legal

No
opinion

Likely Voters

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

Candidate must share views

58%

37

6

One of many important factors

65%

32

3

Not a major issue

53%

38

8



Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with randomly selected national samples of 1,000 adults, 18 years and older, conducted March 30-April 2, 2000 and April 3-9, 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. For results based on the subsample of likely voters, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 5 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.

Now I am going to read a list of some of the issues that will probably be discussed in this year's presidential election campaigns. As I read each one, please tell me how important the candidates' positions on that issue will be in influencing your vote for president -- extremely important, very important, somewhat important, or not important.

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opinion



Abortion

 

2000 Apr 3-9

26%

27

30

15

2



Thinking about how the abortion issue might affect your vote for major offices, would you -- [ROTATED: only vote for a candidate who shares your views on abortion (or) consider a candidate's position on abortion as just one of many important factors (or) not see abortion as an issue]?

 

Candidate must share views

One of many important factors


Not an issue


No opinion

Likely Voters

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

14%

53

31

2



If you could vote on this issue directly, would you vote for or against the following: a law which would make it illegal to perform a specific abortion procedure conducted in the last six months of pregnancy known as a "partial-birth abortion," except in cases necessary to save the life of the mother?

 

Vote for/
Make procedure illegal

Vote against/ Keep procedure legal

No
opinion

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

66%

29

5

2000 Jan 13-16**

64%

31

5

1999 Apr 30-May 2

61%

34

5

1998 Jan 16-18**

61%

36

3

1997 Mar **

55%

40

5

1996 Apr **

57%

39

4

Likely Voters

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

60%

34

6



** QUESTION WORDING:Next, do you favor or oppose the following proposal: A law which would make it illegal to perform a specific abortion procedure conducted in the last six months of pregnancy known as a "partial birth abortion," except in cases necessary to save the life of the mother?

* Less than 0.5%
(vol.) Volunteered response

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/2953/abortion-major-issue-critical-presidential-vote-most-americans.aspx
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