Voters have strong opinions when asked about an Arkansas version of a recently enacted Texas law aimed at restricting abortions. The Texas law was allowed to go into effect by the U.S. Supreme Court while litigation over its constitutionality works its way through the federal courts.
According to new results from the latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll of 916 likely Arkansas voters, the results are closely divided but attitudes are anything but lukewarm. Survey respondents were asked:
Q. Texas passed a law that prohibits abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and empowers private individuals to enforce the regulations through lawsuits against doctors and anyone who “aids or abets” in procuring a “criminal abortion.” If similar legislation were introduced in Arkansas, would you support or oppose its passage?
35.5% – Definitely Support
11% – Probably Support (46.5% Support)
7% – Probably Oppose
42.5% – Definitely Oppose (49.5% Oppose)
4% – Don’t Know
“The strength of opinion is what really stands out in these results on this sharply divided issue,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief. “There is not only a low undecided response on this question, but those with ‘definite’ opinions indicate there is little soft support or opposition should state lawmakers pursue this legislation. It will be a fiery, passionate, and divisive public debate.”
Several Arkansas lawmakers in the overwhelmingly Republican, pro-life state legislature have indicated interest in enacting a similar law as Texas in the regular session that reconvenes Wednesday (Sept. 29) or a possible special session in the near future.
Talk Business & Politics seeks bipartisan input in the construction and analysis of its polls.
Dr. Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, is active in Democratic Party politics and helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:
“Earlier in the month, by a 5-4 vote, the United States Supreme Court allowed a Texas abortion law to go into effect. This novel legislation criminalizes abortions in the state after 6 weeks but, unlike other typical criminal laws, empowers private individuals to enforce the regulations through lawsuits against doctors and anyone who ‘aids or abets’ in procuring such a ‘criminal abortion.’ Around the country, some pro-life governors and legislators have advocated passage of a similar law in their states; this has also happened in Arkansas and some are looking to the issue to be added to an upcoming legislative session.
“Our survey of Arkansas voters indicates that, no matter some legislators’ desires, Arkansans are divided on the issue with just at half not keen on such legislation moving forward in the state. It’s also noteworthy that only 4% of respondents lack an opinion on the legislation suggesting the debate over the legislation and the Supreme Court’s inaction has broken through with Arkansans.
“Among voters under the age of 45, a majority opposes consideration of such legislation (those under 30 are particularly emphatic in their opposition). While white voters are evenly divided, voters of color are overwhelmingly opposed to it. There is also a sizable gender gap on the issue with a majority of women opposed – most ‘strongly’ so – and a slight majority of men in favor of it. In addition, voters with a college education are decidedly more likely to support the legislation than those without a degree. Interesting patterns are also shown geographically with urban/suburban voters in the Second and Third Congressional Districts strongly opposed to the Texas legislation, voters in the First Congressional District (eastern and north central Arkansas) emphatically in favor, and Fourth District voters (south and west Arkansas) evenly split.
“Perhaps least surprising is the role of religiosity in opinions about the legislation with active churchgoers feeling that it is the right step for Arkansas to take, while less frequent attendees of services opposed. Also unsurprising is the partisan divide on the topic with a sharp polarization shown between Republicans who support it strongly and Democrats who are unified in opposition; a majority of Independents, however, also oppose the Arkansas General Assembly taking time to consider the legislation.”
Robert Coon, managing partner with Impact Management Group, which works with Republican political candidates, also helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:
“The Texas abortion law is widely viewed by both supporters and critics as one of the most restrictive in the nation. The absence of exceptions for rape and incest, as well as a new private right of action that was introduced as an enforcement mechanism, likely play into how the public views the law.
“Views on abortion, as one might expect, are anchored by large groups with their opinions well solidified. 36% of those surveyed indicated they would definitely support this type of legislation in Arkansas, while 43% said they would definitely oppose it. Only a small number leaned to the competing camps (11% probably support/ 7% probably oppose) and only 4% didn’t express an opinion.
“Republican voters widely support the legislation (77%), with 60% saying they definitely support it. Comparatively, 93% of Democrats would oppose implementing a similar type of law in Arkansas. Independents, true to form, fall somewhere in between the Rs and Ds with 41% supporting a Texas type law and 55% opposing it. Notably 46% of Independents indicated they would definitely oppose it.
“In addition to party, differences in perspective are visible along both age and gender lines. Men would support bringing the Texas law to Arkansas (53% to 44%) with 42% strongly supporting. An almost mirror image, a majority of women oppose the law (55%) with 47% saying they would definitely oppose.
“As other public survey research findings have demonstrated, sentiment on abortion continues to shift as a generational issue. Support for the Texas law is lowest among those under 30 (27% to 69%) as well as the 31-44 age group (43% to 54%). Narrow margins of support can be found with the two older age categories – 45-64 year olds (48% to 47%) and 65+ (50% to 46%).”
A breakdown of the methodology and demographics of this poll’s results can be found at the bottom of this post.
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