Pro-Life Effort Aids Candidates
True to American tradition, voters on November 4 reacted to the perception of an economic crisis by severely punishing the party in the White House. Unfortunately for the pro-life movement, this meant not only that the pro-abortion team of Barack Obama and Joe Biden beat the pro-life team of John McCain and Sarah Palin, but also that pro-life Republicans suffered losses to pro-abortion Democrats in both the U.S. House and Senate despite valiant efforts by National Right to Life PAC and right to life volunteers nationwide.
Post-election polling showed that, just as in past elections since Roe v. Wade, a significant margin was given to pro-life candidates by the abortion issue, but it was not enough to overcome the Democratic tsunami that followed the stock market collapse and freezing of credit markets that occurred in October.
A nationwide poll of 800 actual voters conducted by The Polling Company November 4–5 found that 5% of voters said that abortion was the most important issue affecting their vote and 90% of these (4.5% of the entire population) voted for McCain while only 10% (one-half percent of the entire population) voted for Obama. This means “single-issue” abortion voters provided McCain a net gain of 4%.
Likewise among those voters for whom abortion was the most important issue, 78% (4% of the entire population) said they voted for Republican congressional candidates while only 15% (1% of the entire population) said they voted for Democratic congressional candidates. This is significant since in every viable congressional contest involving a pro-life versus a pro-abortion candidate, the pro-life candidate was the Republican and the pro-abortion candidate was the Democrat.
When just asked a “softer” question of whether abortion affected their vote 34% said yes with 25% saying they voted for candidates who oppose abortion and just 9% saying they voted for candidates who favor abortion. Of those who said abortion affected their vote, 63% said they voted for McCain and 36% said they voted for Obama, while 58% said they voted the Republican for Congress as opposed to 36% who said they voted for the Democrat.
However, the solid 4% advantage given McCain among those for whom abortion was the most important issue could not match the heavy advantage given to Obama among voters for whom the economy was the single most important issue.
Fully 34% said that “the economy and jobs” was the most important issue affecting their vote. Of these, 69% (24% of the entire electorate) voted for Obama. In contrast, only 30% of these (10% of the entire electorate) voted for McCain. Thus “single-issue” economy voters provided a net advantage of 14% for Barack Obama and decided the election.
The economy also provided a decisive advantage for Democratic congressional candidates with 68% (24% of the entire electorate) of “single-issue” economy voters voting Democratic in congressional elections and only 28% (10% of the entire electorate) voting Republican in congressional elections. This 14% advantage among “single-issue” economy voters for Democratic congressional candidates was also decisive in many cases.
(While voters’ ire over the economic situation was aimed overwhelmingly at Republicans, it is not at all clear that this voter anger was not misdirected. A series of articles appearing September 23–29, 2008, in Investor’s Business Daily strongly indicates that a root cause of the current economic situation can actually be traced to Clinton Administration regulations that encouraged banks to lower their lending standards for home mortgages.)
Despite the pro-life vote’s inability to overcome the economy-driven vote for the Democratic ticket, the increment provided for pro-life candidates compared favorably with that provided in past elections. For example, pro-life voters provided the same net 4% advantage for President Bush in 2004, among those for whom abortion was the most important issue, as they did for Senator McCain in 2008. But this was a very different year for Republicans in general.
Also, as in past years, the pro-life increment provided a margin of victory for several pro-life congressional candidates in very close races, who almost certainly would have lost without right to life help. These victories may well prove crucial in the challenges the right to life movement will face in the next Congress.
National Right to Life PAC and its tens of thousands of grassroots volunteers nationwide made a tremendous effort against incredible odds. Over six million pieces of mail were sent to pro-life households in battleground states and targeted congressional races, over four million pieces of political literature were hand-distributed, and over 35,000 political action radio spots were aired.
In a November 7 article in Congressional Quarterly Online News, National Right to Life PAC was listed as the sixth-largest political action committee in the nation in terms of independent expenditures.
The newly elected Congress should not mistake the good fortune of Democrats, who were in the right place when voters blamed the economic turmoil on the party in the White House, with a vote in favor of abortion. In addition to poll results that showed that a decisive number of those who voted on the basis of abortion voted pro-life, two post-election polls showed that the majority of voters continue to oppose the current policy of abortion on demand.
The Polling Company poll found that 9% believed that abortion should be prohibited in all circumstances, 12% would allow abortion only to save the life of the mother, and 32% would allow abortion only to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.
As opposed to this majority of 53% who took a pro-life position, only 41% believed abortion should be allowed for any reason and that included 28% who would restrict abortion to the first three months of pregnancy.
Almost identical results were found by a poll of 1,049 actual voters taken November 4 by Heart and Mind Strategies. In this poll, 53% again thought abortion should either never be legal (10%), be legal only when the mother’s life was in danger (12%), or be legal only in life of mother and rape or incest cases (31%). In contrast 46% thought abortion should be allowed for any reason and this included 29% who would restrict it to the first three months.
The Polling Company also found that 63% would oppose the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act” when they learned that it “would invalidate virtually all laws restricting abortion, including laws requiring parental notification” and that it would require using tax dollars to pay for abortion and make partial-birth abortion legal again.
A Zogby Interactive poll taken between 11/25/08 and 12/01/08 (n=2,481, +/2 percent) asked if the Hyde Amendment should be repealed. It was described as saying that “federal tax funds may be used to pay for abortion only to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest” and that its repeal “would result in taxpayer funding of abortion performed as a method of birth control.” With this description 69 percent of respondents opposed repealing the Hyde Amendment, including 50 percent of Obama supporters and 90 percent of McCain supporters.
Zogby also asked if “a bill that would force many employers to provide health insurance to their employees” should “require insurance plans pay for abortions when the abortions are performed as a method of birth control”—to which 71 percent said no while 20 percent said yes. Even 5 percent of Obama’s supporters said no as did 92 percent of McCain’s.
The election results were certainly not what we in the right to life movement worked, prayed, and hoped for. But the effort made showed that our greatest strength, our organized grassroots base, is very much alive, well, and growing. And the pro-life vote is still very much there as evidenced by the victory of pro-life Senator Saxby Chambliss in the Georgia run-off and pro-life wins in two closely contested U.S. House races in Louisiana since November 8.
There will be victories again, future pro-life Presidents elected, and other pro-life congressional majorities won in years to come. In the meantime National Right to Life and its members and volunteers will bravely meet next year’s challenges in Congress and in every state, while building our base of support until the goals of this great movement are undeniable. And we will keep faith and find strength in the Author of the lives we seek to protect.
Editor’s note. The article first appeared in a slightly different form in the November/December 2008 issue of National Right to Life News.