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Is Abortion A Wedge Issue for Latino Voters?
Abrajano, Marisa A.
Alvarez, R. Michael
Nagler, Jonathan

In 2000 both major parties courted the growing Latino vote. Republicans hoped to benefit among this group based on the party's pro-life position and the belief that Latinos tend to be ideologically conservative, and that Latinos, in general, are Catholic. We present evidence indicating that this strategy of appealing to Latinos based on George Bush's pro-life stance garnered him fewer votes from the Latino electorate than Republican strategists hoped. While our results confirm that abortion is influential on vote choice at the individual level, abortion's impact at the aggregate level is smaller. When we say abortion is influential at the individual level, we mean that an individual voter is affected by the candidate's position on abortion. The `effect' of abortion we talk about in this case is the change in the probability of a voter choosing Bush (or Gore) if the voter were to change his or her position on abortion while the candidates' positions on abortion remained fixed. However, at the aggregate level we are looking at what would happen if one or the other of the candidates changed his position on abortion. A change in Bush's position would affect all voters. However, abortion's relatively small aggregate level of influence when compared to its impact at the individual level is due to the fact that such a change of position by a candidate would cause him to win some Latino votes based on his abortion stance, and at the same time it would also cause him to lose Latino votes from those who have the opposite view of abortion. As such, when these Latino votes are aggregated, the overall impact of abortion on the total vote is minimal, because the two effects tend to cancel each other out. Our findings are the first we are aware of to measure this overall impact of abortion, though several previous studies (Abramowitz 1995, Alvarez and Nagler 1995 and 1998) have demonstrated the importance of abortion at the individual level. We expect our findings to be applicable to the entire electorate, not just Latinos.


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