Giuliani and Abortion: What the Polls Say

Legal abortion may not be a make-or-break issue for all.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 7:51 PM

May 10, 2007 — -- Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's positioning on abortion puts him on a political tightrope. But especially given his alternatives it may be a less shaky one than conventional wisdom suggests.

While most Republicans (and Republican-leaning independents) oppose legal abortion, it isn't a make-or-break issue for all of them. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll earlier this year, 23 percent of leaned Republicans said there's no chance they could vote for Giuliani given his past support for legal abortion and gay civil unions. But that means 77 percent are still available to him.

That -- plus a recognition of the hazard of backpedaling on a position of principle -- may inform his calculation.

There are other elements. While Giuliani's position is very likely to damage him among evangelical Protestants and other social conservatives, it could help him with other, more socially moderate Republicans. The hazard is if those anti-abortion Republicans, who tend to give the issue higher importance, organize to oppose Giuliani, coalesce around an opposing candidate and boost their turnout. On the other hand, if Giuliani motivates more Republican moderates to vote, the balance could shift in his favor.

That's not an easy task, but Giuliani has a big enough favorability halo; if anyone can do it, he can.

It should also be noted that Republicans are majority anti-abortion, but not monolithically so. In the 2000 New Hampshire Republican primary (which admittedly draws a lot of independents), 52 percent said abortion should be always or mostly legal; fewer, 43 percent, said it should be generally illegal.

South Carolina Republicans (with their substantial numbers of conservatives and evangelicals) went the other way -- a sizable majority, 58 percent, said abortion should be always or mostly illegal. But across the 11 Super Tuesday states in 2000, Republican voters divided almost exactly evenly -- 47 percent said abortion should be generally legal; 48 percent, generally illegal.