Did Roe Abortion Decision Hurt Howard Dean in New Hampshire?

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 28, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Did Roe Abortion Decision Hurt Howard Dean in New Hampshire?

by James Taranto

LifeNews.com Editor’s Note: James Taranto is the editor of OpinionJournal.com and former deputy editorial features editor of The Wall Street Journal.

Poring over exit-poll data from yesterday’s New Hampshire primary, we were especially struck by one fact: John Kerry handily out-polled Howard Dean in every age group–except 18- to 29-year-olds. Dean actually did slightly better than Kerry among the younger voters. But this didn’t do Dean much good, for 18- to 29-year-olds made up only 13% of the electorate, vs. 30% for 30- to 45-year-olds and 46% for 45- to 64-year-olds. (We take these numbers from The Wall Street Journal online; link requires subscription and is in PDF format. The Washington Post has a less detailed chart in which some of the numbers are slightly different.)

Why so few young voters? Part of it, of course, is that younger adults tend not to show up at the polls. But part of it as well, as we noted last week, is that they tend not to exist. That’s right, Dean once again has fallen victim to the Roe effect. Not that Dean would have won the election had more young voters shown up at the polls, but Kerry would not have dealt him such a trouncing.

Some readers scoffed when we brought this up after Iowa. But the numbers bolster our case. Check out these 2000 census data, which break down the population of New Hampshire by sex and age (in one-year increments). More New Hampshirians were 40 in 2000–meaning they were born in 1960–than any other age. The number. The number takes a sharp drop between ages 35 (1965) and 34 (1966), coinciding with the end of the baby boom (and, perhaps not coincidentally, with the Griswold v. Connecticut decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court established a legal right to purchase contraceptives). Then it declines slowly each year, before undergoing another dramatic drop between ages 28 (1972) and 27 (1973)–just after Roe v. Wade. There does seem to have been a baby boomlet starting in the late 1970s and picking up in the ’80s and early ’90s, but it’s far smaller than the postwar baby boom. Nationwide figures show the same trend.

Because the two political parties have become polarized on abortion, it seems reasonable to assume that more potential Democrats than potential Republicans have been aborted. After all, their would-have-been mothers show through their actions that they agree with the Democratic position on the issue. Result: fewer younger voters in Democratic primaries, as we saw last night, and probably a boost for Republican candidates in the general election. (Newsweek headline: "Bush’s Secret Weapon: Young Voters.") This advantage is likely only to increase as the post-Roe babies get older and vote more often–and, in future decades, as their children reach voting age.

Howard Dean’s appeal is essentially to adolescent rage, so it’s no wonder he would do best among the youngest voters–and thus be hardest hit by the Roe effect. Whatever you think of the morality of abortion, it does seem for the moment to be pushing American politics toward sanity.