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Here’s What Voters In Georgia And Alabama Think Of Their New Abortion Laws

Few have thought to check the opinion of local voters.

The new laws restricting abortion in Alabama and Georgia made a big splash in the news over the past few weeks. Since the laws were passed there have been numerous polls showing that voters nationally oppose the measures. Of course, the new laws won’t affect most Americans so I wondered what the citizens of Alabama and Georgia who will actually live under the laws, assuming they are allowed by the courts to take effect, thought of them.

When you look for polls of Georgia and Alabama voters about the new laws, it’s quickly apparent that few have thought to check the opinion of local voters. In March and April, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution surveyed Georgia voters about the fetal heartbeat bill that was pending in the legislature at the time. The poll found that Georgia voters were closely split on the bill, with 43 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed. In addition to the plurality of total voters, opponents of the bill also felt more strongly about it. Thirty-nine percent were strongly opposed while 25 percent strongly supported the legislation.

On the larger question of abortion, 70 percent of Georgia voters opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, however, only 22 percent said that abortion should be legal in all cases. Voters who oppose all abortions were also a minority at 10 percent. The majority of voters supported legal abortion with restrictions. Thirty-five percent said it should be legal in most cases and 25 percent said it should be illegal in most cases.

There does not seem to be any recent public polling of Alabama voters available about the abortion law. Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood released details of a 2018 poll by ALG Research, a Democratic polling firm, that showed results similar to the AJC poll of Georgia voters.

In the poll, slightly less than a third of Alabamans supported positions that were consistent with the state’s new law. Sixteen percent said that abortion should only be permitted when the mother’s life is in danger and 15 percent said that it should be banned outright.

Again, most voters took a moderate position with 49 percent favoring restricted abortion. Twenty percent said that abortion should be legal in most cases while 29 percent said that it should be allowed only in limited cases, “such as rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is endangered.” Only 16 percent favored unrestricted abortion.

The lion’s share of support for the laws is from Republicans, who Morning Consult recently found support the measures by a 57-31 percent margin. Even among Republicans, however, there is widespread support (45 percent) for exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. These exceptions are notably lacking from the Alabama law.

The bottom line is that passage of the laws was a principled stand for pro-life principles by state Republicans, but it wasn’t a popular stand. Even at home, the new restrictions are outside of the mainstream. This is particularly true of the Alabama law.  

When a party goes against public opinion to force through legislation that is popular with the base, but unpopular with voters at large, it often leads to a backlash. This raises the possibility that Republican legislators will pay a political price for their votes next year, even if courts strike down the new laws before they even take effect.

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