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SANTA FE – As New Mexico’s reputation as an abortion safe haven deepens, state voters are divided on whether some restrictions on abortion should be enacted, a new Journal Poll found.
But likely general election voters surveyed last week were nearly three times more likely to say abortion should always be legal than they were to say it should always be illegal.
Specifically, 35% of the 518 statewide voters surveyed said abortion should always be legal, 22% said the procedure should be legal with some limitations and 25% said it should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s life is in danger.
Just 12% of voters surveyed said abortion should always be illegal, while the remaining voters polled had different views on the issue or declined to say.
“Even in conservative parts of the state like the eastern region, very few likely New Mexico voters think abortion should always be illegal,” said Brian Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc., who conducted the poll.
Abortion has emerged as a hot-button issue in this year’s election cycle – both in New Mexico and nationally – after the US Supreme Court in June overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, leaving it up to states to set abortion laws.
While Texas and other neighboring states have enacted abortion bans, New Mexico continues to allow abortion services without any restrictions since state lawmakers passed legislation in 2021 – signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham – repeating a long-dormant abortion ban.
With New Mexico seeing an influx of out-of-state residents traveling to within its borders to obtain abortion services, the Democratic governor also issued an executive order in June aimed at protecting abortion patients and providers from lawsuits and arrest warrants issued in other states.
Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti, Lujan Grisham’s primary rival in this year’s race for governor, said after the Supreme Court ruling was announced he would support banning abortion after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and in pregnancies that put a woman’s life at risk.
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The former KRQE-TV meteorologist also said Lujan Grisham has “extreme” views on abortion since she opposes abortion restrictions.
But the governor and pro-democratic political committees supporting their reelection campaign have countered by saying Ronchetti is actually the candidate with the extreme stance on the issue, while also claiming Ronchetti’s position on abortion shifted after the primary election.
“Ronchetti is in a tough position on this abortion issue,” Sanderoff said. “He has expressed a more moderate stance since the primary election, but the Lujan Grisham campaign and others have tried to portray him as more extreme.”
The third candidate for governor, Libertarian Karen Bedonie, a former Republican, has expressed anti-abortion views on the campaign trail, describing adoption as a viable alternative to abortion.
The Journal Poll did not find a big difference in attitudes on abortion between New Mexico voters based on their gender, ethnicity and age.
But there was a significant divide by party affiliation, as 55% of Democrats said abortion should always be legal and 24% of Democrats said it should be legal with some limitations.
In contrast, just 8% of Republicans said abortion should always be legal, while 24% said it should be banned and 41% said it should be illegal with exceptions for cases of rape, incest and to save a mother’s life.
That partisan divide also showed up when voters were asked who they planned to support in the Nov. 8 general election.
A total of 59% of voters who said they planned to vote for Lujan Grisham said abortion should always be legal, while 47% of voters surveyed who intend to vote for Ronchetti said abortion should be illegal with some limited exceptions.
“There’s a big difference in voters’ attitude on abortion based on candidate preference,” Sanderoff said.
There was little difference in voters’ views on abortion based on their education level with one exception – voters with graduate degrees were far more likely than other groups of voters to say abortion should always be legal.
Nationally, there are signs the recent US Supreme Court ruling could be galvanizing Democratic voters.
This month, voters in Kansas rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have said there was no right to an abortion in the state.
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, statewide sample of 518 voters who cast ballots in the 2018 and/or 2020 general election and who said they are likely to vote in the upcoming election.
Voters were asked which comes closest to their view on abortion: It should always be legal; it should be legal with some limitations; it should be illegal except for rape, incest or to save the mother’s life; it should always be illegal.
The poll was conducted from Aug. 19 through Aug. 25. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone.
Both cellphone numbers (79%) and landlines (21%) of proven general election voters were used.