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Amie Newman Headshot

Is 'Choice' The Magic Bullet for Barack Obama?

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"Choice" has the potential to be a change-maker this election season, according to the results of a new NARAL Pro-Choice America poll.

The poll was conducted in twelve "battleground" states including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- several of which currently have significant anti-choice state initiatives or legislation proposed.

Results from the poll show that the choice issue (essentially defined for this poll as abortion and contraceptive access issues) has the real potential to move female voters to Barack Obama -- voters that include both moderate and pro-choice Republicans as well as Independents. The poll also indicates that Obama's stance on the choice issue solidifies his much-needed Democratic base of female voters -- at least some of which are considered, according to NARAL, "Hillary Clinton strongholds."

While voters have said that the candidates all sound the same on issues of education and health care, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America's Political Director Elizabeth Shipp, when women start paying attention to what the candidates are saying and where they stand on the issue of "choice" there is a clear cut distinction between Obama and McCain and women are now listening.

A Planned Parenthood poll conducted in many of those same "battleground" states released in April indicated that almost 50% of pro-choice, female McCain supporters had no idea what their candidate's positions on reproductive rights were.

Maybe unsurprisingly, therefore, when these same types of voters were actually informed about John McCain's reproductive rights and health positions through the NARAL poll they were more likely to drop that support in favor of Barack Obama.

According to the poll:

* Among pro-choice Independent women, 83 percent said that McCain's opposition to abortion for many women -- even in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger -- causes serious doubts about McCain.
* For these same voters, 79 percent say that McCain's votes against birth control access raises serious doubts in their minds about McCain.
* Among pro-choice Republican women, 71 percent said that McCain's opposition to abortion for many women -- even in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger -- causes serious doubts about McCain.
* For these same voters, 61 percent say that McCain's votes against birth control access raises serious doubts in their minds about McCain.

The poll also shows that when those "Hillary Clinton stronghold" voters like older women, non-college educated women, suburban women and single women are informed about John McCain's anti-choice positions they migrate to Barack Obama in large number.

Overall, positioning the two presidential candidates on the choice issue, defining where they each stand on those issues and making sure key voting blocs of women are informed of the positions will generate significant support for Barack Obama -- cross-over support from Republican pro-choice women, Independent women voters as well as from Democratic women across the age and economic spectra -- according to the NARAL poll.

NARAL Pro-Choice America has a lot of potential support to work with over the next few months. The organization endorsed Barack Obama after which a firestorm of frustration was unleashed. Some NARAL state affiliates did not agree with the endorsement and vocally opposed their national office's position -- throwing their support behind Hillary Clinton at the time. But now, according to Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL:

"NARAL Pro-Choice America is uniquely positioned to help pro-choice candidates win elections from the White House to the state house. We will be working tirelessly over the next five months to ensure NARAL Pro-Choice America's endorsed candidate, Sen. Obama, becomes president-elect Obama on November 4, 2008."

Both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America have conducted and presented poll results from these battleground states now -- revealing the clear challenges ahead but also potential big pay-offs. Even more than the economy, more than the war, reproductive rights holds the power of change for these candidates among these key voting blocs of women.

Originally posted on RH Reality Check.