If news coverage is any indication, it seems abortion is shaping up to be a key focal point -- and maybe the focal point -- of the Supreme Court confirm I'm hearing from progressives who think this single-issue focus is a bad idea. There are lots of ration battle over Judge Samuel Alito. For both progressives and conservatives, the prospect of Alito casting the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade is being put at the top of the list of reasons to either support or oppose him.
Is this a good strategy, for either side? On the progressive end, I'm hearing from progressives who think this single-issue focus is a bad idea. There are lots of reasons Alito is a bad choice for the court, they say. His shocking positions on the Family Medical Leave Act, workplace discrimination standards, and pensions seem like issues that would give millions of working families pause. Why put all the eggs in the Roe v. Wade basket?
I also suspect that progressives who are squeamish about making abortion the centerpiece of the debate may be worried that it's too "divisive" of an issue, although this assumption doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. The findings of a national Gallup poll released today show that the vast majority of the U.S. public has no interest in overturning Roe v. Wade -- in fact, as Gallup reports:
If it becomes clear Alito would vote to reverse Roe v. Wade, Americans would not want the Senate to confirm him, by 53% to 37%.
Yes, you say, but what about the South? This week we also have a state-by-state poll Survey USA did in September 2005 about "pro-choice" and "pro-life" views. Of course, this is just one poll, but the results are very interesting.
First, there are only 13 states in the country where more people identify as "pro-life" than "pro-choice" (North Dakota was a draw). These states, in order of most "pro-life," are:
7) West Virginia
11) South Dakota
One way to look at this list is to see that seven -- over half -- of the states where the "pro-life" position prevails are indeed Southern. One could stretch just a bit and further say that the South -- and parts of the West and Plains -- are the home base of the "pro-life" movement.
But you can look at it another way. In 36 states, more people said they were "pro-choice" than "pro-life." This included six Southern states (in order of those with the most identifying as "pro-choice"): Florida, Virginia, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. In all of these Southern states but N.C., the margin was 5% or more in favor of "pro-choice."
I think these numbers also undercount the true sentiment against overturning Roe v. Wade. For example, how many people (especially Southerners) may not call themselves "pro-choice" for personal or religious reasons, but stop short of thinking Roe should be chucked out the window?
If progressives can convince the public that Alito will overturn Roe, the focus on abortion could well work in progressives' favor -- across the country.