Although Planned Parenthood has not endorsed a candidate in the Alabama U.S. Senate race, they clearly have an ongoing interest in dissuading the Democratic Party from nominating pro-life candidates – even in conservative states. Planned Parenthood recently commissioned a poll of Alabama voters and spun the results to argue that abortion is an unimportant issue in the ongoing U.S. Senate race. This poll has been picked up by a number of media outlets including The Huffington Post, Breitbart, and NBCNews.com.
The poll does contain some interesting information. It was conducted in early November – prior to reporting of the sexual misconduct allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The survey found that 19 percent of Moore supporters considered voting for Democratic candidate Doug Jones. However, of this group, only 8 percent identified abortion as the reason why they ultimately decided to support Roy Moore. Planned Parenthood has used this finding to argue that only a small slice of the electorate – less than two percent – were persuaded to support Moore because of his pro-life stance.
Now, it should be noted that of these conflicted Moore supporters, 63 percent failed to cite a specific policy issue that dissuaded them from voting for Doug Jones. It is possible that abortion might be having an indirect impact on these voters. More importantly, 71 percent of Moore supporters stated that they would not even consider voting for a Democrat in a U.S. Senate election. The survey does not provide much additional information about these voters, but it is likely abortion is an important issue to these Moore voters. In fact, the survey finds that 62 percent of Alabama voters think abortion should be illegal or legal only in the cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life is endangered.
In recent years, Democratic candidates have fared poorly in local elections in the South and Midwest. Despite this, some Democratic political leaders have been unwilling to support pro-life candidates running in socially conservative parts of the country. In April, DNC Chair Tom Perez insisted that support for abortion was a non-negotiable issue for Democrats. Additionally, last week Democratic U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) announced she was endorsing a “pro-choice” primary challenger to Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) – one of the few pro-life Democrats serving in Congress.
This Planned Parenthood poll is the latest attempt by abortion rights groups to downplay the importance of abortion in red states. However, a growing body of polling data shows that religiosity is becoming an increasingly strong predictor of voting behavior. The fact that a significant percentage of Alabama voters would not consider voting for a Democrat in a federal election is very strong evidence of the importance of abortion and other sanctity of life issues to Alabama voters.