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Polarization over abortion grows as support for legal access grows substantially among Democrats

The survey by LSU Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs, found that 49% of the 508 residents survey opposed legal access to abortion in all or most cases.

BATON ROUGE, La. — A survey released Thursday suggests that Louisiana residents are split almost evenly over whether to maintain legal access to abortions. 

The survey, by the LSU Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, found that 49% of the 508 residents surveyed opposed legal access to abortions in all or most cases, and 46% supported it. 

In a similar survey in 2016, 55% of state residents thought abortion should be illegal in all or most cases while 40% thought it should be legal.

The shift occurred primarily among Democrats. Over the last six years, the level of Democratic support for legal abortions rose to 74% percent from 51%, and the percentage of Democrats opposed to legal abortion fell to 19% from 42%.

The percentage of Republicans who largely opposed legal abortion in most or all cases slipped during those years to 69% from 73%, while the percentage of Republicans supporting legal abortions inched up to 24% from 23%.

Support for legal abortions also gained somewhat among political independents, to 47% in the new survey from 40% in 2016. The share of independents who think that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases fell to 50% from 56% six years ago.

Changes in aggregate opinions are not necessarily from people changing their minds, the survey noted. The people might be switching to parties that better align with their views, or the composition of the parties might be changing with generations of voters, the survey report stated.

Abortion is legal in Louisiana up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, but it might be banned if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in June. Louisiana and surrounding states approved laws that would ban abortions if Roe were overturned.

Louisiana lawmakers are also creating other restrictive legislation. On April 12, a state Senate committee advanced a bill that would criminalize the sale of abortion-inducing pills online or through the mail. 

The new Louisiana Survey also says that support for the death penalty for persons convicted of murder has slightly dropped since 2018, to 51% from 58%. 

Opposition to the death penalty remained edged up to 38% of those surveyed from 34% in 2018.

The increase in opposition is largely among political independents. Independent opposition rose to 42% from 31% in 2018. 

Democrats remain largely opposed to capital punishment and support for it dropped from 43% to 32% over the last four years.

Republican support for the death penalty has not changed much since the 2018 survey, dropping slightly to 70% from 74%.

More than 650 people have been executed under the death penalty in Louisiana, and 62 people are on death row at the Louisiana Penitentiary at Angola. Last week, Louisiana lawmakers rejected a fourth bill since 2017 aimed at abolishing the death penalty.

The Louisiana Survey data was recorded from a geographically diverse sample of 508 Louisiana residents. They were interviewed by telephone or online survey between Feb. 21 to March 14, 2022. The results are the final installment of a survey. 

The Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs is a part of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication. 

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