As the clamor grows to purge the GOP of its socially conservative stands, especially its pro-life stance, it might be wise for the prudent party hotshots to take a closer look. Despite some rather angry voices attempting to scapegoat conservative Christians as chest-thumping purists, the data on public opinion surrounding abortion suggests that the Party's pro-life stance is simply not the problem some imagine.
Contrary to what some GOP analysts assume, public support for legal abortion has actually fallen over the last year. In April 2008, overall support for keeping abortion legal in all or most cases, was at 54%, a clear majority. This year, however, Pew polling found that support for legal abortion is down to 46%, while support for making the procedure illegal in most or all cases rose from 41% to 44%. The pro-abortion supporters are now in a statistical tie with pro-life Americans.
Remove the spin and what you have is a Nation about evenly divided on the most divisive issue since slavery.
One of the story lines most often heard these days, among Republicans attempting to explain Democrat victories of 2006 and 2008, is that the young people are ardent supporters of keeping abortion legal and are patently repelled by Republican pro-lifers.
The huge crowds, with a great many young people, following Sarah Palin last year on the campaign trail seem to have gone unnoticed by the D.C. crowd.
And wouldn't you know it? The polling data supports those huge crowds for Palin and the young people inspired by her stout pro-life position, among other factors. Support for keeping abortion legal in most or all cases among the 18-29 year olds has fallen a full 5% since last August. In August 2008, legal abortion support among 18-29 year olds stood at 52%; this April it's down to 47%. Support for making abortion illegal in most or all cases has risen 3% and is now at 48%. So, using abortion as the straw man argument to win back the young is now moot. By 48% to 47%, another statistical tie, the youth are evenly divided just as the older generations are.
The most notable decline in the support for legal abortion has been among those highly-cherished, sought after Independent voters. As Pew notes:
There has been notable decline in the proportion of independents saying abortion should be legal in most or all cases; majorities of independents favored legal abortion in August and the two October surveys, but just 44% do so today. In addition, the proportion of moderate and liberal Republicans saying abortion should be legal declined between August and late October (from 67% to 57%). In the current survey, just 43% of moderate and liberal Republicans say abortion should legal in most or all cases.
The fact that the votes in 2006 and 2008 went against the pro-life Party merely demonstrates, in my opinion, that the priorities in those elections were not focused on social issues.
This is precisely the circumstance borne out by Pew polling on issue priorities late last summer in the lead-up to the November election. The top issue among registered voters, as of August 2008, was the economy by a whopping 87%. The next five issues in importance were all in the 72-77% range, and were energy, health care, education, Iraq and terrorism. Moral values and social issues were at the absolute bottom of the heap, a vast contrast to the elections of 2000 and 2004. And, clearly, the nation felt far more safe in 2008 than in the prior two elections.
Using the warped logic of those now wanting to purge the party of social conservatives, perhaps we should purge national security instead.
When the voters feel less safe, they vote Republican.
All in all, the data certainly does not support the idea that joining with the Democrats in their Culture of Death would in any way whatsoever bring on a Republican resurgence. To be sure, this clamor will not die easily. But for my money, Republican analysts and game-plan makers would do well to consider the fact that sacrificing principle for pander does not play well over the long term.
Just as it was Republican Party principle that brought an end to slavery over the often violent protests of many of its own rank and file, the Party needs to stand firm now in the clutches or disband itself. Without principle, the GOP will simply be a lesser form of the Democrat Party.
In the 19th Century, the big fight on the side of good was the abolition of slavery. Today, that one big fight is the protection of human life.
And it just doesn't get more basic than that. Our side is changing hearts and minds. This is no time for cowardly retreat. This is the time for bold advance.
Kyle-Anne Shiver is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. She welcomes your comments at commonsenseregained.com.