West Virginians’ views on abortion are complicated.
A new poll by North Star Research of West Virginia voters for the state Chamber of Commerce finds that 51 percent consider themselves pro-life, while 45 percent are pro-choice.
Voter views on abortion are strongly linked to party affiliation.
The poll found that 77 percent of Republicans are pro-life and only 20 percent are pro-choice. The numbers flip among Democrats, where 86 percent are pro-choice and only 12 percent consider themselves pro-life.
Independent voters are divided; 50 percent say they are pro-choice while 45 percent are pro-life.
One might conclude from those results that the abortion issue is straightforward—for abortion or against it—but it is not that simple. For many, abortion is more nuanced.
The pollsters also asked voters which of the following policies they would like the West Virginia Legislature to adopt: 1) Make all abortions illegal. 2) Allow for exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. 3) Allow abortions within the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. 4) Allow abortions until viability, and 5) Legalize all abortions.
Given that 51 percent of West Virginians are pro-life, one would think that most want to outlaw all abortions, but they do not. Just 13 percent of all voters do not want to allow any abortions, while 39 percent want exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the mother’s life.
And, perhaps surprisingly, most Republicans polled are not interested in banning all abortions. Just one in five said abortion should be illegal with no exceptions. A majority of Republicans (55 percent) said there should be exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the mother’s life.
In addition, a plurality of independents (35 percent) wants those exceptions, while only 11 percent say all abortions should be against the law.
Among Democratic voters, three-fourths of those questioned want to keep abortions legal. Only six percent of Democrats want no legal protections for abortion and 14 percent oppose abortion, but with exceptions.
So, what does all this mean?
For some West Virginians, abortion is straightforward—they are either for it or against it and the circumstances do not alter their views. However, most West Virginians are somewhere in the great middle.
That middle represents a degree of uneasiness with the either/or positions on abortion, and that should be a warning to both Republican and Democratic lawmakers when they tackle this divisive issue.