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More voters support abortion ban

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Hispanics break from party on issue

A slight majority of likely Albuquerque voters support a special election ballot initiative that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in the city, according to a Journal Poll.

The Journal Poll found that 54 percent of city voters would support the proposed late-term abortion ban that will be considered on a special election ballot this fall after supporters submitted more than 12,000 petition signatures of registered voters backing the measure.

About 39 percent of likely city voters said they would oppose the proposed ban.

Two percent of voters said their support “depends” on details of the ban; 5 percent were undecided, according to the poll.

“I think the spread was a little surprising, but I wasn’t shocked,” Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff said. “I think that many Albuquerque voters are pro-choice; however, support for the pro-choice position evidently declines as the term of the pregnancy increases.”

Support for the proposed late-term abortion ban was strongest among Republican voters, 80 percent of whom said they supported the measure.

Democratic voters represent a plurality of the voters who have historically cast ballots in city elections, but Democrats were less unified than Republicans on the abortion issue. A slight majority – 56 percent – of Democrats polled opposed the ban, while 35 percent said they would support it.

The split among Democrats is driven by a large number of Hispanic voters who frequently have a religious background and support anti-abortion polices while voting Democratic on most other political issues, Sanderoff said.

Support for the proposed abortion ban was bolstered by a large number of religious Hispanic voters who support anti-abortion policies but typically vote Democratic on other political issues.

“I think the big story is Hispanics,” Sanderoff said. “Although Hispanics tend to be Democrats and tend to hold the Democratic position on economic issues, we find they differ with other Democrats on the abortion issue. Hispanic Democrats are much more likely to be supportive of this measure than Anglo Democrats.”a00_jd_09sept_Abortion_Demographic

Just 33 percent of Hispanics – both Republican and Democratic – said they would oppose the proposed late-term abortion ban, the poll found.

Independent voters were closely split on the issue, with 46 percent saying they would support the ban and 44 percent opposed.

Supporters have said the proposed late-term abortion ban was initiated to target the Southwestern Women’s Options clinic in Albuquerque, one of four clinics in the country that perform third-trimester abortions. The ban would make an abortion performed 20 weeks or more after conception a misdemeanor crime, except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.

Similar late-term abortion bans have been adopted in 11 states, although legal challenges have blocked such bans from taking effect in Arizona, Georgia and Idaho.

In Albuquerque, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has threatened to challenge the proposed ban in court if it is adopted.

Sanderoff said the 5 percent of voters still undecided on the proposed abortion ban is particularly low because the question represents a core value on which most voters have formed an opinion before learning details about the coming ballot initiative.

However, the emotional nature of the abortion question and dynamics of a special election could attract different voters than those who have historically cast ballots in Albuquerque municipal elections. That means turnout to the special election, whether conducted by mail-in ballot or on a special election day, could sway the outcome of whether the proposed abortion ban passes, Sanderoff said.

“Emotional issues such as abortion would bring out some untraditional voters to the polls on both sides,” Sanderoff said. “… A lot will depend on the mobilization of forces on both sides.”

The margin of error in the poll is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.

Likely voters were asked: “Do you support or oppose the Albuquerque ballot measure to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy?”

The Journal Poll was conducted by Research & Polling Inc. of Albuquerque. The findings are based on telephone interviews of 402 voters likely to vote in coming municipal elections who also had voted in an Albuquerque city election in 2011 or 2009. Interviews were conducted Sept. 3-5.