The new Beliefnet survey offers some fascinating insight into how voters are looking at abortion.
In the Beliefnet survey, about 20% of overall Obama voters and 35% of the most religious Obama voters (those who attend church weekly or more) were pro-life. If national results track Beliefnet users — we’ll have to wait for some more national surveys to be sure — then that would mean pro-lifers made up a bigger portion of the Obama vote than African Americans and Latino’s combined.
So what do they believe? They are fundamentally different from McCain Pro Lifers because they simply don’t believe that criminalizing abortion is the most effective means of reducing the numbers. Here’s the key:
11% believe the best way to reduce the number of abortions is through legal restrictions
87% believe the best way is “by preventing unintended pregnancies (through education and birth control) or providing financial assistance to pregnant mothers.”
Just as surprising, is that a third of McCain pro-lifers, and 42% of McCain voters, agreed that the second approach was more effective.
This is striking. For years, the abortion debate has revolved around Roe v. Wade and legal restrictions, yet the majority of Obama pro-lifers and a sizable minority of McCain voters say that another approach would be more effective at reducing the number of abortions.
The good news for Obama is that his argument during the fall campaign — that we should seek common ground ways of reducing abortion — tapped into a real public desire. The bad news is that he now has to deliver on that promise, or risk alienating millions of pro-life Americans who voted for him.