Choice Remains a Key Issue in the Election
by Jonathan Singer, Fri Oct 17, 2008 at 08:30:37 AM EDT
Watching some of the cable news coverage following the final presidential debate, one might come away with the impression that choice is not an issue that voters care about this year. Why, they asked, would so much of the debate have been wasted discussing abortion? No matter that the fate of Roe v. Wade, and perhaps even privacy decisions before that, is on the line, and that more broadly that a win by John McCain could open the door to a return to 19th century jurisprudence (I'm not exaggerating here) -- choice, these pundits say, is not important to voters' decisions.
Yet there is reason to believe that these pundits are simply wrong. First, the assumption that all swing voters are like "Joe the plumber" is wholly spurious. Undecideds don't tend to be far right-wingers who vote in Republican primaries and don't think Social Security is a "joke." In fact, contrary to what you might infer from the focus on "Joe the plumber," not all swing voters are white men. Some are actually women who care about issues other than raising taxes on the very well-to-do, issues that include choice. Indeed, as Marc Ambinder reports, the issue during the debate that drew the most interest and investigation, according to Google searches, was not taxes and -- I know this is a shock -- not even "Joe the plumber," but rather Roe.
Google's Top Debate Spikes
Well, spike: it was Roe v Wade, according to Google.
Check out the magnitude of Roe searches as compared to the searches for, say, "Joe The Plumber."
Earlier this year, polling (.pdf) indicated that about half of the women supporting McCain held pro-choice positions, and a not insignificant portion of them -- about a quarter, in fact -- believed that McCain agreed with them. That's right, a good chunk of women supporters of McCain believed that he, like them, was pro-choice.
Of course McCain isn't, and were these voters to find that out, it might be difficult for McCain to bamboozle them into voting for an end to Roe. At the least, the confusion over McCain's position on the issue was likely one of the reasons why Roe was the top search term during the debate -- which undermines the notion that choice doesn't matter in this election.