CNN Poll: Did Akin comments have public opinion impact?
August 24th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Did Akin comments have public opinion impact?

Washington (CNN) - The controversy over Rep. Todd Akin's comments on abortion appears to have created a significant shift in public opinion on that issue, principally among younger Americans, according to a new nationwide poll by CNN/ORC International.

The Republican Senate nominee in Missouri and six-term congressman, who has deep ties to Christian conservatives, sparked a firestorm following comments in a TV interview Sunday when he said that a woman's body is capable of preventing pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape" while explaining his stance that there should be no abortion exemption for rape or incest.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

The poll, conducted Wednesday and Thursday and released Friday, indicates that 83% of Americans say that abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest, with similar numbers believing abortion should be legal when the life or health of the mother is endangered.

"Those aren't topics that Americans like to think about, but the recent controversy over Akin's remarks may have provided a stark reminder to many Americans that there are at least a few circumstances under which they support legal abortion," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

As a result, the number who believe that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances has dropped from 21% last year to 15% now. The debate also appears to have boosted the number of Americans who say that abortion should be legal under any circumstances - from 25% a year ago to 35% now, the highest level of support for unrestricted abortion since mid-1990s.

"A generation gap, rather than a gender gap, may be behind that change," adds Holland. The number of younger Americans who think abortion should be legal under any circumstances jumped 19 points since last year, compared to single-digit changes among older Americans. "The survey indicates support among women increased 12 points, compared to eight points among men, indicating that gender has a role in shaping opinion on abortion but may not be as important as age."

The survey indicates that Republicans who oppose abortion in all circumstances are in a decided minority, even within their own party. Eighty-three percent of all Americans - and 76% of all Republicans - think abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest. Eighty-three percent of Americans - and 78% of Republicans - support an exception in cases where the woman's health is endangered.

Akin has faced fierce pressure from the GOP to step down from the Senate race, but he says he remains committed to his campaign.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International August 22-23, with 1,055 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC International poll
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    They are what we thought they were." former NFL Coach Dennis Green.

    August 24, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  2. nothing new here

    WTG Christian social conservatives!!!!
    You continue to lose ground with the very people you are trying to win over to Jesus Christ.
    I am not that religious, but I believe that Jesus would be more careful with his choice of words, or at least get his facts straight before preaching such nonsense.

    August 24, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  3. TAK

    It sure did in my casr. It demonstrated to me that Mitt Romney does not have the leadership skill set that the President of the United State requires. He handles the entire Akin issue like a wet-behind-the-ears bush league candidate.

    If he can't lead his own party, he can't lead the country.

    August 24, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  4. Iamnotfooled

    The poll, conducted Wednesday and Thursday and released Friday, indicates that 83% of Americans say that abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest, with similar numbers believing abortion should be legal when the life or health of the mother is endangered.

    They are right. BUT-This goes totally against the GOP PLATFORM they just adopted again.

    August 24, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  5. Dave in Arizona

    This is yet another social issue Republicans are destined to lose. Their position for *any* limitation on abortion is that the life of the baby is more important than anything else. But concessions for rape pregnancies and mother endangerment are already admissions that the mother's health (physical or emotional) is capable of being more important. After that the integrity of their entire position begins to fall apart.

    The pro-life position's problem is that it can logically only be all-or-nothing, and it's clear Americans refuse to accept a complete banning. So they're already working against the grain and already making compromises.

    And it will fail. Recent history shows already that support for abortion is slowly increasing–or at the very least not going in the direction the GOP would like. Social evolution, like any evolution, WILL happen. They can make it more difficult, but they can't stop it.

    August 24, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. nothing new here


    The GOP is just pandering to the religious right with these social platforms.
    It is going to take a whole lot more than carefully worded press releases to totally abolish abortion in this country. The GOP has damaged it's own credentials with many people, including the younger generations. Let's be thankful that younger people are more willing to acknowledge diversity.

    August 24, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  7. Randy, San Francisco

    Add Ryan among the 22% in the GOP/Tea Party who do not want an exemption for rape or incest. Do women want Ryan to be one heart beat from the presidency?

    August 24, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. harold

    It's going to depress a lot of people if he can say what he did and still get elected.
    But I'm not discounting the possibility. There are a lot of voters who think like he does.

    August 24, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  9. Amused

    Actually, I think the sampling error is probably higher than that, as more and more people are ditching land-lines in favor of cell phones. Those people tend to be younger, and more liberal. While I give props to CNN for trying to appear non-skewed, I think the reliance on land-line phones for polling is more skewing (I like that word...skew) than CNN is giving it credit for.

    August 24, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  10. mormon birther for President

    Romney/Ryan out of touch with mainstream America.

    August 24, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  11. 8.3% unemployment - Over 8% 42 Straight months and the Obama Jobs DEPRESSION continues unabated

    Nobody cares... the country is burning down and Obama is throwing more gas on the fire and the LSM is distracting us with this BS.

    August 24, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  12. rs

    Of course it had impact! Certainly it revealed two things:
    1. Willful ingorance is not a sound foundation for good legislation. Simply "believing" something so utterly stupid and outragious called Akin's intelligence and good sense into question.
    2. The more significant event though was discovering how prevelant the "zygotes and rapists rights before the vocitim's" was in the Republican Party. These people clearly do not wish to see women as equals in American society if they will subject women (whom they claim to respect) through the tortures of their own laws. The current GOP anti-abotion and anti-birth control bills reveal deep mental illness on their part. They claim to be pro-life, but have a real inability to see and respond to the problems of real-live human beings and thus support to the contrary: loose gun laws; unneccessary war; wrecking the social safety nets for the poor, sick and elderly.

    August 24, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. John

    It is pretty obvious that the GOP will gradually "go out of business" in the absence of changing their platform, due primarily, to the dying off of the senior generation.............Youth & Minority votes are moving strongly toward the Democratic party and considering who is in charge of the GOP, that probably won't change.

    August 24, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. fryuujin

    impact, where it concerns the GOP not at all. the GOP drones and their obedient wives would vote for him if he had said Hitler had the same idea. they are so blinded by these dolts thing will change their "mind". the good news is that in a generation enough of them will have died off that they won't be able to elect anyone.

    August 24, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  15. ptny

    It will have a huge voting impact.

    August 24, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. cali girl

    It uncovered their dirty little secret. As if women are beneath men, have no rights and can be treated worse than cattle.
    Women will remember for many years the damage the GOP and Tbaggers represent. Akin was just the tool to open his mouth, the house of cards is imploding all around them.

    August 24, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  17. Keeping it Real

    Rudy NYC "They are what we thought they were." former NFL Coach Dennis Green."

    Actually, no. They are not as you have been portraying them, and you know it. Most GOP do not approve of banning abortions in every case, as liberals such as yourself, would claim. Like most people, most believe that it is acceptable in cases of rape or incest or when the woman's health is endangered. Why liberals can't be honest about the differences of beliefs is beyond reason.

    August 24, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |