MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A close vote may be in store for Tennessee’s proposed constitutional amendment on abortion, according to the latest MTSU Poll.
The amendment, popularly known as Amendment 1, would specify that Tennessee’s constitution does not include a right to an abortion. The recent poll of 600 registered voters, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, showed 39 percent in favor of the amendment, 32 opposed, 15 percent undecided, and the rest not voting on the amendment or declining to answer.
Early voting ends Thursday, Oct. 30, for the Nov. 4 election.
“For many people, the biggest surprises in this part of our poll probably will be just how close this race is and how important the relatively large number of still undecided voters are,” said Ken Blake, Ph.D., director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.
The 7-percentage-point lead that supporters hold over opponents “is just a shade too large to be considered a statistical tie,” Blake said.
“But the undecideds could swing the outcome either way on election night. Also, among those who either have voted already or say they definitely plan to vote, the measure leads 38 percent to 33 percent, a slightly narrower margin that can’t rule out a statistical tie among members of that group.”
Jason Reineke, Ph.D., associate director of the poll, added that it is also unclear whether the amendment will draw a majority of the number of votes cast in the race for governor, a requirement for passage.
“In our poll, 214 likely voters said they are in favor of the amendment, while 416 likely voters support a gubernatorial candidate. If we go by those figures alone, the number of votes in favor of the amendment is equal to 51 percent of the total number of decided, likely votes in the gubernatorial race,” Reineke explained. “This would be enough to push the amendment past the 50 percent plus one vote threshold required by the state constitution, though just barely.”
But Reineke pointed out that another 74 likely voters in the poll said they’re not sure whom they prefer in the governor’s race.
“If even half of the people in the population they represent end up casting a vote for governor but don’t vote in favor of the amendment, then we get 214 votes in favor of the amendment compared to 453 governor’s race votes, which brings us to only 47 percent. Then there were also 84 likely voters who were not sure about their position on Amendment 1. So, once again, a lot depends on what voters who are still undecided at this late date end up doing.”
A ‘Yes’ voters’ strategy?
The poll found no evidence of widespread plans by amendment supporters to skip voting in the governor’s race, a strategy some supporters have promoted via unofficial channels as a way of lowering the required number of votes the amendment must receive to pass.
In all, only 3 percent of the poll’s respondents said they planned to cast no vote at all in the governor’s race.
Familiar with Amendment 1?
About 42 percent of those interviewed said they had heard or read “a lot” about the amendment, while 44 percent answered “a little,” and 10 percent responded with “nothing at all.” The rest weren’t sure or gave no answer.
A subsequent question found that 15 percent thought abortion should be legal in all cases, 23 percent thought it should be legal in most cases, 25 percent thought it should be illegal in most cases, and 18 percent thought it should be illegal in all cases. About 11 percent said they weren’t sure, and the rest gave no answer.
Race emerged as a factor in voting preferences about the amendment, with significantly more whites favoring the amendment (47 percent) than minorities (18 percent). Similarly, more men favored the amendment (44 percent) than women (34 percent). Support also was significantly higher among self-described evangelical Christians (43 percent) than among those who did not identify themselves as such (29 percent). Differences in support across age, education and income were nonsignificant.
About the poll
Conducted Oct. 22-26 by professional interviewers with Issues & Answers Network Inc., the poll completed 600 telephone surveys among a random sample of adult Tennessee registered voters using a mix of 80 percent landline and 20 percent cell phones.
Interviewers read the full text of the amendment to each respondent. Respondents who had taken part in early voting were then asked whether they had voted for the amendment, against it or had cast no vote. Respondents who had not yet voted were asked which choice they would make “if the election were held today.”