March 30, 2005

For Immediate Release

Choice and the 2004 Election

To: Interested Parties
From: Ellen Malcolm, President, EMILY's List
Re: Choice and the 2004 Election
Date: January 14, 2005 – Updated February 5, 2005

The impact of "moral values" on voting behavior was a centerpiece of the analysis that followed the 2004 presidential election, with conservative groups and commentators moving quickly to tie the "values deficit" to Democrats' positions on issue like choice and gay marriage. This led to a discussion, not yet resolved, within Democratic circles as to whether the party should moderate its position on choice. With little data to support such an assertion, choice is sometimes cited as the reason for the Democrats' top-of-the-ticket losses.

Support for a woman's right to choose has, in many ways, become the scapegoat for Democrats' losses. In fact, an analysis of data strongly suggests that choice was not a factor in voters' decision-making in the presidential race.

In the limited instances where choice was a factor, it appears that Kerry's support for a woman's right to choose actually resulted in a net gain. It also appears clear that the economy, Iraq, and the power of incumbency were the factors that drove voters to Bush. Furthermore, while the "moral values" analysis provided a convenient rationale for the right, further analysis shows that "moral values" are not synonymous with Bush values, nor were those voters who cited moral values as a determinant of their vote referring to social issues like abortion.

Attached is a summary of an analysis conducted for EMILY's List by The Mellman Group, Inc., based on exit polling and other available data that explores the relationship between support for a woman's right to choose and Democratic losses in November 2004.

In short, the Mellman analysis of data finds the following:

  1. The issue of choice played little role in the election. Where it did play a role, it appears to have helped Democrats.
  2. The analysis also shows that a solid majority of Americans remain pro-choice, thereby disputing the "mandate" to dismantle a woman's right to choose often claimed by anti-choice leaders.
  3. The data suggests that the country is moving from an income-based partisan alignment to a culturally based political alignment. The issue of choice did not cause this realignment, nor is there any evidence that abandoning a pro-choice position would undo the current alignment.
  4. Kerry's defeat was largely a function of dynamics that gave electoral advantages to Bush. It was not a function of his support for a woman's right to choose.

The conclusion can be drawn from this analysis that Democrats, and all supporters of a woman's right to choose, should not view the outcome of the 2004 election as a rejection by the American people of the belief that abortion should remain legal. While choice has become a convenient scapegoat for Democratic losses, the assertion that choice led to Democratic defeat in November simply does not stand up when the actual data is examined. The message is clear. If Democrats want to win future elections, they should not abandon their support for a woman's right to choose.

To read the summary of the Mellman memo, please click here.

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