COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A new poll suggests that while support for the right to abortion is strong in Ohio, how voters may cast their ballots in an election to constitutionally protect the procedure is influenced by the language used to describe it.
An Ohio Northern University poll released Friday found that while voters are still more likely than not to support an abortion amendment in the Nov. 7 election, the margin narrows considerably when comparing the language that will be on voters’ ballots versus the language of the amendment itself. The poll of 668 registered voters conducted in mid-October has an overall margin of error of 3.8 percentage points – and found that unaffiliated and independent voters are most likely to be affected by the language.
Issue 1, which would constitutionally protect pre-viability abortions and other reproductive health decisions, appears differently on the ballot from its actual language. The Ohio Ballot Board, tasked with drafting ballot language for statewide issues, rejected the campaign for Issue 1’s suggested ballot language and replaced it with its own.
Among key changes were the exclusion of the other reproductive health decisions protected by the amendment – fertility treatments, contraception, pregnancy and miscarriage care – and the replacement of “fetus” with “unborn child.” The ballot board’s language also described a prohibition against state interference in abortion care as a prohibition against the “citizens of the State of Ohio” from interfering instead.
The group behind the amendment, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, challenged the ballot language in the Ohio Supreme Court. The court found the reference “citizens of the State of Ohio” to be misleading and ordered the change, but allowed the other modifications to remain.
|Ballot Language||LWV Ohio Language|
|The following amendment, Issue 1, will be voted upon in this November’s election. It will:|
1. Establish in the Constitution of the State of Ohio an individual right to one’s own reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion;
2. Create legal protections for any person or entity that assists a person with receiving reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion;
3. Prohibit the State from directly or indirectly burdening, penalizing, or prohibiting abortion before an unborn child is determined to be viable, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means;
4. Grant a pregnant woman’s treating physician the authority to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether an unborn child is viable;
5. Only allow the State to prohibit an abortion after an unborn child is determined by a pregnant woman’s treating physician to be viable and only if the physician does not consider the abortion necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health; and
6. Always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician’s determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health.
|The following amendment, Issue 1, will be voted upon in this November’s election:|
1. Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.
2. The State shall not, directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either an individual’s voluntary exercise of this right or a person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.
3. However, abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability. But in no case may such an abortion be prohibited if in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.
4. As used in this Section, “Fetal viability” means “the point in a pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician, the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures. This is determined on a case-by-case basis”; and “State” includes any governmental entity and political subdivision.
Researchers at Ohio Northern divided the group in half, having one group answer questions using the actual ballot language for Issue 1 and the other half use the ballot language proposed by the League of Women Voters of Ohio. The margins of error vary between the groups.
While 68% of voters said they supported the amendment when looking at the League of Women Voters’ language, the support rate dropped to 52% when looking at the language that will appear on the ballot. The rate of undecided voters also more than doubled compared to the League of Women Voters language, from 5% to 12%. With a 9% margin of error, support for the amendment using the actual ballot language falls well within the margin of error.
Independent voters were most affected by the different language in the poll, with 43% supporting the amendment when reading the actual ballot language and 73% supporting the amendment when reading the League of Women Voters language.
A majority of independent voters in both groups plan to vote for the amendment – 54% and 70%, respectively. With a margin of error over 20%, however, it’s difficult to draw conclusions on how consequential the language change will be among unaffiliated voters.
Unsurprisingly, registered Democrats overwhelmingly support the amendment regardless of the language used to describe it. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats approve of the amendment using either description, with 91% saying they plan to vote for it.
Republicans also maintain a consistent disapproval of the amendment, albeit along much tighter margins than Democrats’ support for Issue 1. While 29% of Republicans said they supported the amendment when looking at the ballot language, that number jumped to 45% when looking at the League of Women Voters language. Still, Republicans plan to vote against the amendment even when their disapproval falters – two-thirds said they would vote no when looking at the ballot language, compared to 59% in the other group.
Like the Baldwin Wallace poll conducted earlier in October, the Ohio Northern poll found high levels of support for abortion more generally. Nearly two-thirds of voters said they believe abortion should be legal, compared to 32% who said it should be illegal.
Fifty-seven percent of voters believe the U.S. Supreme Court wrongly overturned Roe v. Wade, which established a federal constitutional right to the procedure in 1973. But they’re evenly split when asked whether abortion regulations should be decided by the federal government or left to the states.