Should Republicans Emphasize the Abortion Issue?
3:45 PM, May 22, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
David Frum has written a column in The Week magazine called "The pro-life delusion" in which he claims that a recent Gallup poll showing that 51 percent of Americans self-ascribe as pro-life
Frum argues that this poll will lead Republicans to try foolishly to win over "socially conservative, lower-income nonwhites [who] put their economic interests first and vote Democratic" rather than "economically conservative affluent whites [who] put their cultural votes first and also vote Democratic."
There are a few problems with Frum's argument.
It's not as though the overwhelming case that the pro-life issue helps the GOP started with this one Gallup poll. The issue netted votes for the GOP even when majorities self-identified as pro-choice, because pro-lifers have been more likely to vote on the issue. The case that the country has been turning more pro-life doesn't depend on one poll. There has been a clear and widely-recognized trend toward pro-lifers over the last fifteen years.
Moreover, the Gallup poll is not as unreliable as Frum makes it out to be.
Fox News independently found a number of self-identified pro-lifers within two percent (49%). Rasmussen and Pew have both recently shown a significant drop in support for abortion. (And Jay Cost points out that party ID bounces around quite a bit; the proportion of self-identified Republicans is probably closer to 32 percent than 1 in 5, as Frum claims.)
The Polling Company finds that the number of self-ascribed pro-lifers to be slightly lower (47 percent), but when you drill down on this poll it's clear that the anti-abortion position is quite strong: 82 percent of adults oppose third-trimester abortions, and 71 percent oppose taxpayer-funding of abortion.
Obama promised Planned Parenthood in 2007 that his public health-care plan would cover abortions. If the health-care bill unveiled this summer actually covers abortions, wouldn't it be a smart idea for Republicans to point out this fact--loudly and frequently?With the upcoming Supreme Court appointment, would it be foolish for Republicans to point out that Obama's justice is likely to vote to keep late-term abortions legal--regardless of what most Americans believe? I know that this point has been made time and again by some some pro-life conservative writers, but it's a fact that most Americans don't grasp. Obama tries to obscure the facts about Roe for a reason, and he'll get away with it as long as Republicans fail to make an issue out of it.
Now, both GOP and pro-lifers should clearly be willing to support a pro-choice Republican like Rob Simmons in a very liberal state like Connecticut, so long as Simmons votes more like Susan Collins than Lincoln Chafee on conservative judges.