The fight over control of the Senate is heating up. Although Nate Silver’s website, fivethirtyeight.com, predicts that the Republicans remain slightly favored to take over the Senate, he cautions that “it is still early, and we should not rule out the possibility that one party could win most or all of the competitive races.”
In many of the hotly contested races, like Alaska, abortion is again taking center stage as a major issue. For example, incumbent Democrat Mark Begich is touting his pro-choice credentials, while his Republican opponent, Dan Sullivan, is firmly against abortion. Both pro-choice and pro-life groups are pouring money into the race to support their candidate in a move that is consistent with previous election cycles and is being emulated in races around the country.
In light of the money that goes into using abortion as a wedge issue around the country, a new national poll is particularly interesting.
Most polls about abortion ask questions about whether they support certain types of abortion, failing to distinguish between morality of abortions and illegality. However, NARAL conducted a national poll across age divisions and political parties to reach a more nuanced response. The polls distinguished between asking people whether they:
- Believe abortion is morally acceptable and legal.
- Am personally against abortion for myself and family, but don’t believe government should prevent the woman from making that decision for herself.
- Believe that abortion is morally wrong and should be illegal.
- Don’t know.
What the poll found was that almost 70 percent of respondents answered yes to either the first or second response and, therefore, a strong majority of the country believes that the government should not regulate a woman’s access to abortion. Rather, as writer Katie McDonough explained, the poll confirms that “these decisions are personal and life is complicated.”
The poll further breaks down to show that 84 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of independents, and 53 percent of Republicans don’t support government limits on a woman's choice in the matter.Why then are more local and state governments passing restrictions? In 2013 alone, 22 states
passed 70 new laws that placed restrictions on abortions and access to the medical procedure. According to the Guttmacher Institution, this was the second highest total ever -- the highest being just two years earlier in 2011.
The trend is traced back to Republican victories in the 2010 midterm elections. Many of the candidates ran on the issue and won as part of a more general backlash to the Democrat’s 2008 victory.
What then, does this poll really indicate? Perhaps, it is a sign that despite a period of flourish for restricting abortion laws over the past several years, voters are increasingly turned off by governments involved in the issue.
In Texas, between May 2013 and August 2014, more than half of the abortion clinics closed as a result of these laws. In Mississippi, only one clinic remains open as the result of a court ruling. While pro-choice and pro-life groups will undoubtedly continue to pour money into the midterm elections, candidates might be well poised to focus on other pressing issues, particularly as the economy continues to rank high on the list of concerns among voters..
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