Abortion poll sets stage for legislative debates

Special to the Herald-Guide
February 07, 2014 at 9:05 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

By Jeremy Alford and John Maginnis

After surviving attempts by lawmakers to defund it last year, Planned Parenthood is circulating the results of a November poll that suggest voters’ attitudes about reproductive health and pregnancy in Louisiana do not fit neatly along a pro-life to pro-choice continuum.

Conducted by Hamilton Campaigns with 600 likely voters, with over-samples from Baton Rouge and New Orleans, it found Republicans are still the leading preference for legislative seats, with 46 percent compared to 41 percent for Democrats and 12 percent undecided.

Drilling down to the key issue, the poll points to slightly more than half of Louisiana voters, or 54 percent, preferring a legislative candidate who focuses on creating jobs, increasing access to health care and protecting the middle class.

Only one-in-three, or 33 percent, want a candidate who focuses first on protecting traditional values and upholding a “pro-life, pro-family agenda.”

As for ending all government funds for Planned Parenthood, 37 percent were in favor, 56 were opposed and 7 percent had no opinion.

While cross-tabs were requested by LaPolitics but not provided, a poll memo stated that voters in the north Louisiana, New Orleans and Baton Rouge media markets were strongly opposed to defunding, while voters in the south were divided.

When voters were asked to describe themselves, 56 percent identified as pro-life, 26 percent pro-choice and 16 percent as “in between.” However, a majority of voters did not believe Roe vs. Wade should be overturned-33 percent were for overturn, compared to 59 percent for leave it in place.

Contacted for comment, Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum, said Planned Parenthood hired a company “whose client list is a veritable ‘who’s who’ of pro-abortion organizations to spin their pitiful national reputation into a positive.”

He said Planned Parenthood is expanding in Louisiana, specifically New Orleans, and hopes to “accelerate abortion opportunities this year” and that his organization is working with a larger coalition called NOLA Needs Peace.“Louisiana residents have consistently demonstrated their strong commitment to Life in the only poll that counts—the voting booth,” Mills said.

The issue isn’t weakening in the Legislature.

State Rep. Frank Hoffman, R-West Monroe, said that he plans on filing additional legislation this year to “maintain Louisiana’s ranking as the most pro-life state in the nation.” It’s expected that Planned Parenthood’s funding will be a part of those debates.

In related news, the state Department of Health and Hospitals announced Monday—a day before a public hearing was scheduled—that it would back off on its controversial emergency rules that would have overhauled Louisiana’s existing regulations on abortion clinics.  

The proposed rules would have given DHH the authority to immediately shutter abortion clinics with no opportunity for appeals, despite the type of infraction. Clinics argued the requirements being proposed were heavy handed.

State officials say they were worried about potential lawsuits, but that they would eventually circle back around to the issue. Is U.S. Senate race opening up?National rankings and a new poll suggest Congressman Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, may be closing in on incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu ahead of the fall election.

For starters, Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a website affiliated with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, has once again adjusted Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race. It started as a “Toss Up,” was changed to “Likely Democratic” in October and is now officially back to “Toss Up.”

While the crystal ball gazers admitted that “we’re not going to underestimate (Landrieu), who has won three tough races and who benefits from a sterling political name,” they see a runoff with Cassidy as highly likely.

The report noted that Cassidy has also had some problems on his right flank, adding, “A Louisiana midterm runoff would be different and, admittedly, hard to predict.”

Further evidence that the race has tightened can be found in an independent poll that’s showing Cassidy ahead of Landrieu, 44 percent to 40 percent.

Rasmussen Reports, which leans conservative, surveyed 500 likely Louisiana voters over Tuesday and Wednesday. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.5 percentage points.

Those called were asked, “In thinking about the 2014 election for U.S. Senate, suppose you had a choice between Republican Bill Cassidy and Democrat Mary Landrieu. If the election were held today, would you vote for Republican Bill Cassidy or Democrat Mary Landrieu?”

Also included in the poll was state Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, who matched Landrieu’s 42 percent in a two-person hypothetical even though 40 percent of those polled had no idea who he was.

Landrieu’s overall favorable impression with respondents was 49 percent, compared to 47 percent unfavorable; Cassidy’s spread was 37-31 percent; and Hollis’ 31-20 percent. The main difference between Cassidy and Hollis, of course, is that the congressman has been campaigning for more than a year while the state rep has been on the stump for only a couple weeks.

While recent polls have shown Landrieu with a higher negative than positive job approval rating, this is the first poll to show her trailing in a trial heat in this campaign.

The poll result likely shows the effects of the heavy schedule of negative ads that have been run against her by Americans for Prosperity. In response, the Senate Majority PAC has stepped up its negative ads against Cassidy.

It’s also a sign that this race may be more about Landrieu’s vulnerability than the strength of her Republican opponents. They Said It

“I’ll be announcing that I’m running for my life.” —Treasurer John Kennedy, after being asked when he’ll announce he’s running for governor“It’s not going to pass.”—State Rep. Dee Richard, No Party-Thibodaux, on his proposed legislation to ban lawmakers from giving out free scholarships to Tulane University

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