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Poll: 'Right to life' measure likely to pass

FARGO - A ballot measure amending the North Dakota Constitution to recognize “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development” is likely to pass next month, according to new poll results.

The poll, commissioned by Forum Communications Co. and conducted by the University of North Dakota College of Business and Public Administration, found 50 percent of respondents planned to vote in favor of Measure 1. One-third, or 33 percent, said they would vote “no,” and 17 percent were undecided.

If approved, it would add to the state’s constitution: “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of human development must be recognized and protected.” The measure was put on the ballot after legislators approved a resolution last year during a session that saw the passage of several abortion restrictions.

The new poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent, with 95 percent confidence, and is based on landline and cellphone interviews of 505 randomly selected North Dakotans 18 and older who said they were likely to vote. The surveys were conducted between Sept. 26 and Oct. 3.

Robert Wood, an associate professor of political science at UND who helped conduct the poll, said Measure 1 looks on track to pass based on these findings. While 17 percent were undecided, he said all would need to break toward voting “no” to defeat the measure – an unlikely scenario.

“By and large, there are not that many undecideds on this particular measure,” he said.

More than half, or 53 percent, of respondents in the eastern half of the state said they would vote “yes,” 31 percent “no” and 15 percent weren’t sure. In the western half, 46 percent would vote “yes,” 35 percent “no” and 19 percent hadn’t decided.

Measure 1 has more support among men (55 percent) than women (45 percent). Women also were more likely to be undecided (20 percent) than men (14 percent).

The margin of error for results broken down by gender, geography and other demographics is higher than for the overall sample, said Brian Urlacher, an associate professor at political science and public administration at UND who also worked on the poll.

When grouped by age, respondents 18 to 30 were most likely to vote in favor of the measure at 62 percent, compared to 52 percent of those 31 to 45, 43 percent of those 46 to 65 and 51 percent of those 66 or older. More than a quarter, 28 percent, of 46- to 65-year-olds were undecided, the most of any age range.

Stronger support among the younger respondents could be a sign that younger people are more anti-abortion or supportive of the expansion of government in general, Wood speculated.

Urlacher said lower support among the 31 to 45 demographic could be caused by people of that age being more likely to be concerned about any potential impact to infertility treatment.

A group of Fargo physicians who offer in vitro fertilization recently warned they’d have to stop the treatment if Measure 1 is approved, an interpretation the measure’s supporters say isn’t true.

Opponents also have raised concerns about the measure’s impact on end-of-life decisions that could weigh more heavily on the minds of older respondents.

“I think the thorny issues that make people who are sympathetic to the pro-life argument pause are not the things that show up on the radars of 18- to 30-year-olds is how I would read that,” Urlacher said.

Generally, the percentage of respondents planning to vote “yes” decreased as their education level increased, starting with 89 percent of those with a high school education or less and ending with 40 percent of those with a master’s degree or higher.

To see full results of the Forum Communications poll on Measure 1, click here.

Poll methodology

The results of this poll are based on telephone interviews of 505 randomly selected adults ages 18 and older who are living in North Dakota and likely to vote Nov. 4. Polling was conducted from Sept. 26 through Oct. 3. In order to provide a probability-based representative sample, both landline and cellular telephone numbers were included. The sample yields a 95 percent confidence level of a plus or minus 5 percent margin of error.

Source: UND College of Business and Public Administration

For more on poll methodology, click here

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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