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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

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Political Crumbs

Evolving?

When Scott Walker "punted" back in February after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution he added, "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other." However, it may very well be a question that is asked at one of the upcoming GOP debates this year. In South Carolina during the first GOP debate in 2012, FOX News' Juan Williams asked Tim Pawlenty, "Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution as the basis for what should be taught for our nation's schools?" Pawlenty replied, "There should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design" but that it was up to the local school districts if it should be in a science class or comparative theory class. At the fourth Republican debate held in California, Jon Huntsman addressed the GOP becoming "anti-science" thusly: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy."


73 Months and Counting

January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


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