by Deal Hudson
November 12, 2007
LifeNews.com Note: Deal W. Hudson is the director of the Morley Institute for Church & Culture, and is the former publisher and editor of CRISIS Magazine, a Catholic monthly. He is the author of six books and his articles and comments have been published in many newspapers and magazines.
A little-noticed Fox News Channel poll released last week revealed that nearly half of voters — 45 percent — need to know a candidate’s position on abortion before deciding their vote.
The spin put on the poll numbers by the article was that the abortion issue "doesn’t seem to draw as much attention as many think it does," according to John Gorman, Chairman of Opinion Dynamics.
It seems the pundits are preparing the way for a Hillary-Rudy presidential race where the life issues don’t matter anymore. Yesterday, for example, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), gleefully announced the "end of the Reagan Era."
But prominent religious leaders, Catholic and Evangelical, think otherwise.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum told me that "abortion continues to be an issue that shakes the conscience of our society. For those who vote on the issue equivocation is not acceptable."
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Human Rights told me:
“The poll results demonstrate that abortion is anything but a side issue. The American people may be conflicted on the subject — they want abortion to be legal but limited (limited in both time and purpose) — but it is precisely their own uneasiness with this issue that drives them to demand that candidates for public office square with them about their own positions. In other words, the public is looking for clarity on this issue from their would-be leaders.”
In sum, abortion may not be highly valued when measured against other issues, such as the war in Iraq, but it is the qualifying issue. For nearly half the electorate, how a candidate thinks about abortion is what qualifies him or her for their support.
The poll showed that 56 percent of self-identified pro-lifers qualify candidates this way, as do 41 percent of pro-choice voters.
Pro-life Democrat Mark Stricherz, author of the recent Why the Democrats Are Blue: Secular Liberalism and the Decline of the People’s Party (Encounter Books, 2007), puts it this way: "Our media elites say that Americans don’t care about abortion. But as this poll shows, Americans do care. In fact, enough of them care so much about it that they cost Al Gore and John Kerry the presidency, as the Democratic Party’s own pollsters — such as Stanley Greenberg — confirm."
The level of concern about abortion and other life issues is the legacy of the religious conservative entry into American politics that began with the election of Reagan in 1980. This concern has been thrown into temporary disarray by the lack of a galvanizing pro-life presidential candidate.