Poll finds 57 percent of Mainers support keeping abortion legal

New poll data released Thursday by Planned Parenthood indicates that a majority of Mainers are supportive of women’s rights to make choices about issues ranging from personal health care options to abortion and would support political candidates with the same beliefs.

The poll, commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund Political Action Committee, showed that 57 percent of Mainers identify themselves as someone who thinks abortion should be legal in many circumstances and that 68 percent of voters prefer candidates who support a woman’s right to make private decisions about her own health, according to an analysis of the data by Planned Parenthood.

A range of national polls conducted this year also found that well more than 50 percent of respondents believe abortion should be legal either all the time or under most circumstances.

According to question-by-question data collected by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, only 9 percent of voters said all abortions should be made illegal and 28 percent said abortion should be legal only in extreme circumstances such as rape, incest or saving the life of the mother.

Changes to state-level abortion laws come up regularly in the Maine Legislature. A bill proposed last year that would have required doctors and health care workers to provide information and alternatives to patients seeking abortions and another called for written consent from a parent or legal guardian before a minor could have an abortion. Both bills were rejected.

The poll, conducted in early April, surveyed 801 voters from across Maine, almost all of whom said they are very likely to vote in this November’s election. About 33 percent identified themselves as Democrats, compared to 35 percent independent and 28 percent Republican. About 53 percent of the respondents were women.

The Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund PAC will undoubtedly put women’s health rights at the center of political endorsements they will roll out in the coming weeks, according to Nicole Clegg, who chairs the PAC.

“The majority of Mainers believe the decision on whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy or raise a child should be left to a women, her family, her faith and her doctor or health care provider, not a politician,” said Clegg in a written statement.

The PAC has a history of making relatively small expenditures in elections. In 2012, for example, the group spent a total of $2,200 to print literature in support of Sen. John Cleveland, D-Auburn; Democratic Senate candidate Colleen Quint of Minot; Democratic House candidate Elizabeth Miller of Somerville; Democratic candidate Jean-Marie Caterina of Scarborough; and Sen. Dick Woodbury, I-Yarmouth.

The Planned Parenthood poll also asked respondents to gauge their attitudes between “warm” and “cool” toward several groups and organizations as follows: “Pro-life, anti-abortion groups,” 32 percent warm and 43 percent cool; “Democrats in the Legislature,” 41 percent warm and 38 percent cool; “Republicans in the Legislature,” 33 percent warm and 41 percent cool; “the Tea Party movement,” 23 percent warm and 51 percent cool; “Planned Parenthood,” 54 percent warm and 23 percent cool; “Maine environmental organizations,” 50 percent warm and 19 percent cool; and “The National Rifle Association, or N.R.A.,” 45 percent warm and 38 percent cool.

The poll also asked what the most important issue is in this year’s gubernatorial election, to which 45 percent of respondents said reducing unemployment and creating more jobs, 18 percent said protecting Social Security and Medicare, 14 percent said improving public schools, 11 percent said making health care more affordable, 5 percent said making college affordable, and 3 percent said protecting women’s access to health services, including birth control and cancer screenings.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.