New Jersey Right to Life, the Garden State’s most prominent anti-abortion organization, released a new poll yesterday finding that New Jerseyans have nuanced opinions on abortion, with reasons for optimism for both sides of the abortion debate.
The topline number of the poll, which was conducted by the well-respected Marist Institute for Public Opinion, is not promising for NJ Right to Life. Given the binary options of identifying as pro-life or pro-choice, 67% of New Jersey adults said they considered themselves pro-choice, versus just 32% who considered themselves pro-life.
Unsurprisingly, a huge majority of Democrats – 82% – said they were pro-choice, as did 63% of independents and 40% of Republicans.
But people have very different personal definitions of words like pro-choice and pro-life, as the next question on the poll demonstrated.
27% of respondents said that abortion should be allowed at any time during a pregnancy, while 6% said it should never be allowed under any circumstances. That puts two-thirds of New Jerseyans somewhere in the middle: 12% said abortion should be allowed only in the first six months; 25% said it should be allowed only in the first three months; 23% said it should only be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother; and 6% said it should only be allowed to save the life of the mother with no other exceptions.
On one hand, that means only 35% of New Jerseyans want to implement a wide-ranging abortion ban like the ones that have passed in countless Republican-led states. On the other, it means 73% of New Jerseyans think there should be some restrictions on abortion – something which New Jersey has very few of thanks to a variety of legislative, executive, and judicial actions made over the course of decades.
Among them is the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, a bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last year codifying abortion access into state law. NJ Right to Life executive director Marie Tasy said in a statement that her organization’s new poll is evidence that the bill was misguided and should be repealed.
“Democrat leaders and Governor Murphy are clearly out of step with the majority of NJ voters,” Tasy said. “It is no wonder that Governor Murphy and Democrat leaders engaged in shady backroom deals to keep the public in the dark in order to get the misnamed Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act passed during the last days of a lame duck session.”
The poll also asked several questions about specific abortion-related policies that have been approved or proposed in New Jersey.
Right now, those under 18 years old are able to get abortions in New Jersey without parental consent. According to the poll, that’s a wildly unpopular policy: 70% of respondents said abortion providers should be legally required to notify parents in such situations, compared to just 29% who said they shouldn’t be required.
The poll also found a majority of respondents opposed to “using tax dollars to pay for residents from other states who come to New Jersey to get an abortion,” a policy that has been proposed but not implemented. 41% said they supported such a plan versus 58% who were opposed.
(That result comes with the caveat that if the question had been phrased differently, it may have had a different result; poll questions that focus specifically on “tax dollars” often find less favorable results than those that emphasize the outcomes of a policy instead.)
Overall, the poll provides many interesting data points and few definitive answers. NJ Right to Life’s press statement was headlined with the assertion that the poll “indicates [a] majority support limits on abortion”; a pro-abortion group might be able to take its preferred numbers from the poll and proclaim the opposite.
The Marist Poll was conducted on behalf of New Jersey Right to Life from April 10-12 with a sample size of 1,024 New Jersey adults and a margin of error of +/- 4.1%.