Donald Trump has reshaped the Republican Party in his image on fiscal and foreign policy.
Can he do the same on abortion?
An exclusive USA TODAY/Boston Globe/Suffolk University Poll in New Hampshire indicates he just might.
For a half-century, since abortion rights were enshrined in the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, opposition to abortion has been a defining stance for the GOP. Every Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan has taken a hard line on the issue, and in return anti-abortion activists have provided ground troops and a reliable voting bloc.
But Trump last month called the six-week ban on abortion signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “a big mistake” and said exceptions to a ban in cases of rape and incest should be included in state laws. He has dodged questions about whether he would support a federal ban, and he offered himself as the perfect figure to negotiate a compromise with abortion rights advocates that would leave both sides happy.
He blamed the issue for costing Republicans in last year’s midterm elections, when Democrats targeted appeals to suburban women and others alarmed by new state bans.
His comments brought criticism from anti-abortion groups and some of his primary challengers. DeSantis said he had “not just given lip service” to the issue, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott faulted Trump for refusing to commit to supporting a 15-week federal ban.
Since then, there has been no immediate evidence that his yawning leads have suffered either in the opening Iowa caucuses−where evangelical Christians are a political force−or in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary, a state with a libertarian streak.
In the USA TODAY poll of the Granite State, Trump was backed by 49% of likely Republican primary voters, a 30 percentage-point lead over former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, who finished second at 19%.
Just 4% of those surveyed called abortion the most important issue affecting their vote.
“I suppose for a lot of people, it is a powerful issue,” said Richard Aliano, 77, of Wolfeboro, N.H., a retired lawyer who was among those surveyed. “I’m not strongly pro-life, not pro-choice. As I say, I think it should be left up to the individual states to decide and the people in the states to decide.”
The poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters, taken by landline and cell phone Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
A third of these voters supported abortion rights: 31% said protecting access to abortion was “very important” in determining their vote; another 4% called it “the most important issue to me.” About two-thirds, 63%, said abortion access was not important to their vote.
Asked what the strictest limit on abortion they would support, 22% said restrictions at six weeks of pregnancy and 24% restrictions at 15 weeks. Twelve percent placed the strictest limit at 24 weeks, in effect the limit allowed under Roe v. Wade, and 20% said later or never. Another one in five, 22% were undecided.
Climate change dismissed as unimportant
On other issues, the GOP’s voters took unyielding conservative positions that have gained traction in the GOP in recent years.
An overwhelming 61% majority dismissed climate change, which mainstream scientists describe as an existential threat to the planet, as unimportant or nonexistent. In the poll, 26% said it was “not too serious” a problem in New Hampshire, 20% said it was “not at all serious” and 15% said flatly that climate change “is not happening.”
Just 2% said climate change was the most important issue affecting their vote.
By 58%-36%, they supported ending so-called birthright citizenship for the children of immigrants who entered the United States illegally. The idea has been backed by Trump, DeSantis, Scott and others, but most legal scholars say it would violate the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
By 52%-33%, they viewed labor strikes unfavorably, and only 14% said labor unions were essential to protecting workers’ rights. Instead, 19% called unions “a drag on the U.S. economy because increases in labor costs result in higher prices.” Nearly two-thirds, 63%, said unions “can be good for workers, but sometimes they go too far.”
Concerns about the jobs and the economy were cited by 32% as the most important issue affecting their vote, second only to border security and immigration, named by 37%.
No other issue drew statistically significant numbers: 5% for “democracy,” 4% for foreign policy, 2% each for Social Security and for education.
Reagan often declared that the Republican Party was defined by three fundamentals: Fiscal discipline, military strength and social conservatism on issues like abortion. Trump has made the GOP a more populist party with other priorities. The nation added more than $7 trillion to the national debt during his presidency, and Republicans are now divided over the projection of U.S. strength in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
What’s the matter with Massachusetts?
It’s no secret there is sometimes a certain friction between New Hampshire and its southern neighbor.
Asked to choose a single description that applies to Massachusetts, 32% of these New Hampshire voters issued a complaint: “Too many of its residents are moving to New Hampshire.” Another 28% called the Bay State “a high-tax, high-cost state” and 9% viewed it as the epitome of “big government.”
On the other hand, 11% took a friendlier tact. Massachusetts, they said, was “home to my favorite sports teams.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Can Trump reshape where the GOP on abortion? Our NH poll says maybe.