Poll: West Virginians about split on ‘pro life’ or ‘pro choice’ and then it gets complicated

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West Virginians are almost evenly split on whether they consider themselves “pro choice” or “pro life” on abortion, but few favor an outright ban, according to new survey information from the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Among all those surveyed, 51 percent characterize themselves as “pro life,” according to the survey, while 45 percent say they are “pro choice.”

Party identification plays a major role. Seventy-seven percent of Republican respondents said they are “pro life,” while 86 percent of Democratic respondents said they are “pro choice.”

But policy views on different aspects of abortion are more complicated.

Brian Dayton

“The results may be a little bit surprising to some, but when you start to think about them it does make sense,” said the West Virginia Chamber’s vice president for policy and advocacy, Brian Dayton, who said the organization wanted to know more about factors motivating voters during the upcoming midterm election.

“With the Dobbs decision repealing Roe v. Wade, the stakes are a little bit higher now. And I think people are watching what’s happening and maybe becoming a little bit more nuanced and really paying attention to this.”

Respondents were asked under what circumstances abortion should be legal, and each group showed a range of answers.

Only 13 percent of all respondents said abortion should be illegal under all circumstances. That was generally true of Republican respondents, with just 19 percent saying  abortion should be illegal in all instances.

A large block of respondents — 39 percent of the entire group — favored abortion being legal in cases of rape, incest or saving the life of the mother. Fifty-five percent of Republican respondents agreed with that view

Sixteen percent of all respondents said abortion should be legal through the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. Twelve percent of Republicans expressed that view, and 16 percent of Democrats said the same.

Eleven percent of all respondents said abortion should be legal until viability. Only 4 percent of Republicans held that view, while 19 percent of Democrats agreed.

The most common view held by Democrats, 41 percent, was that all abortions should be legal. Only seven percent of Republicans expressed that view, and 18 percent of the full spectrum of respondents favored legal abortion in all circumstances.

Page 2 of WV Chamber poll

“All voters were very mixed,” concluded Dayton of the West Virginia Chamber.

“To me, it says the voters have really taken a nuanced view on this. I think a lot of times we hear from the extremes on either side, but it tells me the voters are thinking more about this issue. They are much more nuanced. The reason we like to do polling is, it cuts through the noise of social media and gets to what the voters themselves are thinking.”

The survey conducted by North Star Opinion Research questioned 600 registered voters across West Virginia from August 20 to 23. The survey was weighted slightly to reflect the state’s age, education and party registration balance. The margin of error was +/- 4 percent for the full sample of participants and slightly higher for the subgroups.

West Virginia’s Legislature has been considering a comprehensive abortion bill that would ban the procedure except for a few circumstances. Debate broke down several weeks ago over whether medical providers should face criminal penalties and whether to provide exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

Greg Thomas

Speaking separately and not specifically responding to this poll, longtime Republican political adviser Greg Thomas this week acknowledged that voter opinions on abortion are not often absolute. He said the difficulty in addressing the issue in the Legislature reflects that.

“I believe the House and Senate caucuses are center right, and I believe that’s where West Virginia is,” he said. “We do have, though, we have a lot of far right, and we have a lot of moderate right as well.

“And with this abortion issue, the center right essentially wants narrow exceptions — like actual rape and incest, not kind of big loopholes that will allow other folks outside of those exceptions to get in. And I think that’s where the majority of West Virginians are; I think that’s where the majority of legislators are.”

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