Poll: Democratic Primary Voters Closely Divided on the Hyde Amendment

Joe Biden gives a pep talk to Dallas County high school students during a campaign event at the SPARK! educational center in Dallas, Texas, May 29, 2019. (Brandon Wade/Reuters)

Democrats are split on the question of repealing the Hyde amendment, the ban on federal funding of elective abortions under Medicaid, according to a Morning Consult poll conducted June 7 to 9. Only a plurality of Democratic primary voters, 45 percent, support repealing the measure, while 38 percent oppose repeal.

After Joe Biden abandoned his decades-long position of opposing taxpayer-funding of abortion last week, zero percent of the Democratic presidential candidates support the Hyde amendment. “With all the major candidates fighting to be the most extreme on abortion, there is a wide open lane for a candidate to bring an alternative position to the discussion and to unify Democrats around common ground principles,” Kristen Day of Democrats for Life said in a statement.

Politico’s takeaway from the poll is summed up in its headline: “Abortion funding reversal helps Biden with primary voters.” But it’s not clear that’s correct. The poll only shows 32 percent of primary voters say they’re more likely to vote for Biden because he abandoned support for the Hyde amendment, while 19 percent of primary voters are less likely to vote for him. As with any issue, it’s hard to know how many persuadable voters will actually make up their minds over this specific incident, but that split is close enough that Biden’s flipping and flopping could actually hurt him in the primary. Biden’s public vacillating on an issue that was on the campaign’s radar for months undermines the claim that he has a sound temperament, and his support for taxpayer-funding of abortion will make him weaker in a general election, which undermines the strongest argument in favor of his nomination.

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