Ads dominating the airwaves for and against Tennessee’s Amendment 1 still may find a receptive audience. A sizeable share of voters haven’t made up their minds about the measure the gives the legislature more leeway to restrict abortions.
An MTSU poll finds 15 percent of voters remain undecided. That block of uncommitted voters could be big enough to sway the outcome given that 39 percent of respondents supported the proposal, and 32 percent opposed it.
Pollsters read the actual language of the amendment — instead of just summarizing it— to 600 registered voters and asked them if they would vote yes or no.
“Inevitably when you do that, particularly on something like this, you kind of inject a frame into the question,” says MTSU Poll director Ken Blake. “So I thought it was very important in this particular case, to just read the text of the amendment, long and confusing as it is.”
Here’s the wording:
“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”
A Vanderbilt poll conducted in May summarized the constitutional amendment this way:
“This fall, Tennessee residents will be asked to vote on an amendment to the state constitution that would give the state legislature more power to regulate abortions. Do you favor giving the state legislature the constitutional authority to regulate abortions, or do you oppose this?”
Given the summary, 71 percent of respondents opposed the measure.
MTSU pollsters believe their unedited question offers a truer reflection of public sentiment. Blake points out that the demographics break down as expected, meaning people likely understand the amendment on both sides. For instance, support was far higher among self-identifying evangelical Christians.
The poll finds that race is a dominant factor in voting preferences. Whites were far more likely to favor the abortion amendment than minorities, and men were more likely than women to support it.
While the poll shows a statistically significant lead for supporters, Tennessee law requires more than a simple majority. To pass, amendments need enough votes to be a majority of the votes cast in the gubernatorial race.