Mississippi politicians have long viewed being anti-abortion as a key to winning elections, working diligently for years to stretch the limits of the law and pass some of the nation’s most restrictive bans.
But based on a new Mississippi Today/Siena College poll, being anti-abortion may not be the key electoral issue that politicians – especially Republican politicians – have believed it to be.
A poll of Mississippians who say they will vote in the Aug. 8 Republican primary found that 45% support repealing the state’s “trigger law” that bans most abortions in the state. Another 44% of likely Republican voters oppose repealing the ban, and 11% said they were not sure.
Editor’s note: Poll methodology and crosstabs can be found at the bottom of this story. Click here to read more about our partnership with Siena College Research Institute.
Mississippi’s trigger law went into effect in 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade. That decision effectively meant that abortion was no longer a national right and that the issue could be decided by each state.
It was a Mississippi case that led to the overturning of Roe. After the Supreme Court decision, the Republican leadership of the state proudly proclaimed Mississippi to be solidly pro-life, with some saying it was the nation’s “safest state for the unborn.”
The poll results are especially notable since the respondents are those who say they intend to vote in Republican primary in August. Generally speaking, it is believed that Republican primary voters tend to be staunchly anti-abortion while Democratic voters support abortion rights.
But based on the new poll, abortion might not be any longer the hot-button social issue that Republicans use to attack Mississippi Democrats and link them to national Democrats.
That issue, according to the results of the poll, could become rights of transgender Americans. According to the poll, likely Republican primary voters by an overwhelming 70%-to-19% margin oppose “repealing the current ban on gender affirming healthcare for any trans person under 18 years of age.” The remaining 11% of the poll respondents were undecided.
Earlier this year during the 2023 legislative session, Republican leaders pushed through a bill banning gender affirming care for minors. The bill prohibits medical providers in Mississippi from providing the care and also appears to ban parents from seeking out-of-state care for their children, though it is unclear how that provision would be enforced.
In the 2023 session, Republican legislative leadership also attempted to take steps to ensure that laws in the state banning most abortions are not weakened.
The Legislature made an unsuccessful effort to revise the state’s ballot initiative process that was struck down in 2021 on a technicality by the state Supreme Court. The initiative process allows voters to gather signatures to bypass the Legislature and place issues on the ballot. The House leadership, led by Speaker Philip Gunn, wanted the new initiative process to ban efforts of placing abortion issues on the ballot. The Legislature ultimately was unable to pass a law restoring the initiative.
Of course, the one time that Mississippians voted on the issue of abortion under the old and now invalid initiative, they rejected the so-called “personhood amendment” by a 58% to 42% margin. The personhood proposal on the ballot in 2011 defined a person “to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof.” Then-Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said at the time a vote against personhood would be “a victory for Satan.”
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the national right to an abortion in 2022, six states have voted on abortion. In all of those states, the electorate voted — usually by large margins — to expand abortion rights. Some of those states, such as Kansas, Kentucky and Montana, are seen as conservative as Mississippi.
On other issues, likely Republican Party primary voters, according to the poll:
- Support eliminating the grocery tax 76% to 15%, with 9% undecided or not answering.
- Support eliminating the state personal income tax 71% to 18%, with 11% not sure.
- Support full funding of public education through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program 57% to 16%, with 26% having no opinion or not knowing.
- Support expanding Medicaid 52% to 35%, with 13% not sure.
The Mississippi Today/Siena College Research Institute poll of 646 registered voters was conducted June 4-7, 2023, and has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points. Siena has an ‘A’ rating in FiveThirtyEight’s analysis of pollsters.