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Does Supreme Court Abortion Decision Signify Shift in Attitudes?

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In a 5-4 decision reached last week the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a federal ban on the medical procedure known as 'partial birth abortion.' The procedure was a rallying cry for right-to-life advocates, although even some abortion rights supporters were in favor of the ban.

But this Supreme Court ruling should not be viewed as a turn in the tide of American's views towards the legality of abortion in general—at least not in the Upper Midwest. The majority of Iowans (55 percent), Minnesotans (54 percent) and Wisconsinites (56 percent) all identify themselves as "pro choice" (SurveyUSA, April 2007). Even residents in a red state like South Dakota (52 percent) are more likely to identify themselves as 'pro choice' than 'pro life' (SurveyUSA, November 2006).

Although the Supreme Court decision was a high profile news story, abortion is generally not considered one of the most important problems in the Upper Midwest. For example, in an October 2006 WPR / St. Norbert College poll only 1 percent of Wisconsinites viewed abortion as the nation's most important problem—behind 13 other issues.

However, when major changes in abortion policy come to the forefront—as it did in South Dakota in 2006 when state legislators and Governor Mike Rounds passed a complete ban (to be rejected last November by South Dakota voters)—it can become a major motivating factor behind the vote choice of the electorate. Abortion was viewed as the #1 determining factor (19 percent) for voters deciding how to vote in the 2006 governor's race, according to a June 2006 KELO-TV / Argus Leader poll.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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