National Right to Life commissioned the respected polling firm Wirthlin Worldwide to conducted exit surveys of voters after the 1998 elections about their abortion attitudes. What they found, as with past polls, is that the pro-life stance continues to help, not hurt, candidates.
Wirthlin's polling of 1,008 voters found that 22% said that abortion affected how they voted. Fifty-nine percent of these voters voted for pro-life candidates while only 41% supported pro-abortion candidates, a difference of 18 percent in support of the pro-life position. This mirrors the exit polling done by media organizations that confirmed that voters who voted based on the abortion issue in the hotly-contested 1998 Senate races almost always favored pro-life candidates.
The poll showed, as has always been the case, that the pro-life position is advantageous for the GOP and that Republican Party members are strongly pro-life. As Republican pollster Linda DiVall noted, having a pro-life stance "was not an issue that necessarily harmed Republicans in 1998. A number of pro-life candidates ran and won, and [Wisconsin Senate candidate] Mark Neumann, while he lost, made real strides on the abortion issue." (Boston Globe, 11/5/98)
Indeed, exit polling showed that Neumann beat pro-abortion Sen. Russ Feingold on the abortion issue by a whopping 82-17% margin of the 20% of voters who cast votes based on the abortion issue.
In the Wirthlin poll, sixty-four percent of Republicans indicated a pro-life position while only thirty-two percent took a position supporting abortion. Unlike most abortion advocates claim, women are not overwhelmingly pro-abortion. Some 65% of Republican women supported a pro-life position while only 33% took a pro-abortion position, leaving a "gender gap" of only one percent.
On abortion itself, the 11/3/98 Wirthlin poll found that 51% supported a pro-life position while 44% supported a pro-abortion position. Contrary to what pro-abortion Republicans like Ann Stone and Arlen Specter say, there is no overwhelming majority support for abortion on demand.
The Wirthlin polls also found strong support for pro-life measures such as the ban on partial-birth abortion and the Child Custody Protection Act. Voters supported the partial-birth abortion ban 73-19 percent and opposed taking teens out of state for abortions that violate parental involvement statutes by a whopping 85-10 margin. These results indicated that the measures have support from a sizable segment of those who consider themselves pro-choice.
Looking ahead to 2000, the Wirthlin poll asked voters what candidates they would support for the 2000 presidential primary. Only one pro-abortion Republican, Pete Wilson, drew any attention and he managed only 1% of the support from GOP voters who were polled. Seventy percent of respondents supported a pro-life Republican, only three percent supported a mixed-record Republican, only one percent supported a pro-abortion Republican, and 12 percent had no preference yet or didn't answer. These are good odds for 2000. For additional information on the Wirthlin poll, contact National Right to Life at NRLC, 419 7th St. NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20004.