Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Abortion Issue: More Female Pols A Result?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Abortion Issue: More Female Pols A Result?

Article excerpt

RONALD REAGAN started a revolution 10 years ago when he campaigned for president saying that government should get off people's backs.

That philosophy may be taking a turn the Gipper never expected. It may influence how women vote, particularly when it comes to abortion.

A study suggests in states where abortion is a major election issue, voters who are ambivalent about abortion are more likely to vote for pro-choice candidates.

Such voters do not necessarily identify with feminism, and often are not comfortable with abortion. But they are a lot less comfortable with the government interfering with their lives.

Debra Dobson, assistant professor at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics, studied the only two state elections for governor held last year - those in New Jersey and Virginia. They were the first gubernatorial elections held after the Supreme Court's Webster decision giving states more authority to restrict abortion.

Researchers conducted interviews with 4,400 registered voters and 90 legislative candidates. Interviewers asked voters if they favored or opposed government restrictions on abortions, then asked voters seven questions to analyze their attitudes on the subject.

What the polling data revealed was that the people in the middle - those who feel conflict on the issue of abortion - were likely to be pro-choice, if only to keep government off their backs.

"There is a possibility that Ronald Reagan's revolution made it possible for the resurgence of the pro-choice side, by making people less comfortable with government restrictions and government intruding in people's private decisions," said Dobson.

The polling data also showed that although the Republican Party is most strongly opposed to abortion, Republican voters - particularly women - were willing to cross party lines and vote for Democrats if the candidates were pro-choice.

The pro-choice candidates won the governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia. But in Virginia the abortion issue was more heavily emphasized. Unsurprisingly, women there came out to vote in droves.

Dobson said a Republican legislator from northern Virginia remarked on the heavy turnout of women. …

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