Wait a sec, you say. Didn’t Gallup find just six months ago that the number who describe themselves as “pro-choice” was at a record low? Indeed they did.
But as the saying goes, my friends: Elections have consequences.
More voters than ever now identify themselves as pro-choice when it comes to abortion, and most rate the issue as important to how they vote.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely U.S. Voters shows that 54% describe themselves as pro-choice on the issue of abortion, while 38% say they are pro-life.
Let’s look at trends on abortion in a few recent polls. This one, from a WSJ poll in mid-October, isn’t too helpful because the only point of reference is data from March 2005. Even so, there’s a shift:
This, from a CNN poll taken in late August, is much more revealing:
Nice and steady there in the mid-20s for “legal under any circumstances” over the past five years — until suddenly, in August of this year, the number jumps. Why? Well, what else happened in August this year? Right: Todd Akin opened his yapper about “legitimate rape” and women’s supposed biological defense mechanisms against it and that was the beginning of the end for Republican chances to take back the Senate. How big a deal was it? Weeks later, the NYT poll was seeing more support for the idea that abortion should be “generally available” than it had in over 15 years:
The first column shows those who want abortion generally available, the second column shows those who think it should be available with stricter limits. Follow the last link and check the data and you’ll find that the last time “generally available” hit 42% was February 1995. Some of the movement may be due to Democrats’ relentless “war on women” messaging independent of Akin, but Akin was the rocket fuel they needed for it, I think. Nothing strange about that, really: Sentiments about abortion can shift quite sharply based on recent political circumstances. Remember what happened in Gallup’s polling on this subject shortly after O was inaugurated in 2009? Right — there was a sudden leap in the number who describe themselves as “pro-life,” to the point where it overtook “pro-choice” for the first time ever. That was mainly a reaction, I think, from abortion fencesitters who suddenly worried that O and his Democratic Congress might try to expand abortion rights too far. You’re seeing the opposite play out now with Akin, I suspect. Between him and Mourdock, fencesitters are alarmed at what they’re hearing about rape and are identifying as pro-choice to signal their opposition. That’ll level off in time, but it’s proof positive that Republicans lost more than just Senate seats when they said what they said. People who claimed that two inadvertently did damage to their own socially conservative cause weren’t kidding.