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Monday, March 13, 2006

somewhat shocking follow-up

I was looking into the breakdowns for some of those polls in my post about the new Allen/Romney abortion position below. One of the current polls is this one by Ipsos/Associated Press. This is actually one of the more pro-choice polls, finding that 52% of the respondants believed that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and only 43% of respondants believed that abortions should be illegal in all or most cases.

But the poll goes on to ask "Regardless of your opinion about abortion, do you think the federal government should decide whether abortion should be legal or not, or should each state government decide?" 46% said that it should be decided by the federal government, and 43% said by the states.

Now, I expected that a majority of those who thought abortion should be illegal would say that it should be decided by the states, and that a majority who thought it should be legal would say that it should be decided by the federal government. But, much to my surprise, the results were almost uniform in both camps.

Abortion should be illegal: 47% Federal government, 43% States
Abortion should be legal: 48% Federal government, 44% States

This means that 66% of respondants either said that abortion should be illegal, or that it should be left to the states (43% + .44 * 52%). Conversely, it means that only 25% of respondants believed both that abortion should be legal AND that the federal government should decide (.46 * 52 %).

If these numbers are an accurate reflection of opinion -- and not just that people have no idea what they're talking about (compare, for example, the large majority of people who disfavor overturning Roe v. Wade) -- the switch to the Romney/Allen position could be a total coup, turning a dog of an issue into a big Republican winner.

Update: Why is that so 66% meaningful? The implicit assumption is that nationalist pro-lifers would support the overturning of Roe regardless. Therefore, the 66% number comes from summing the people who explicitly endorsed the outcome of overturning Roe (the Romney/Allen position) and those for whom overturning Roe would be a step in the right direction. This seems reasonable to me. My concern is that the pro-choice people who endorse federalism here are merely doing so "in theory" rather than "in practice" -- i.e., they think abortion policy should be determined at the state level, so long as that policy is pro-choice (and I don't mean that as a dig - it's a rational position).

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