Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is once again making the media rounds, criticizing other Republicans’ anti-abortion legislation despite his own extreme record on the issue. But this time, Graham threw a new falsehood into his usual spiel, implying that the majority of Latino Americans side with his anti-choice agenda.
When asked by NPR’s Here and Now during a Monday interview about whether he supported restrictions on abortion and immigration, his criticism of other GOP candidates on those topics, and if Republicans are “boxing themselves in on those issues with women [and] Hispanics” and “alienating constituencies,” Graham falsely suggested that most Latinos are in fact anti-choice.
Graham has led the charge on numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation, including an attempt to implement a nationwide 20-week abortion ban by reintroducing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and co-sponsoring “personhood” bills including the Life at Conception Act, which could have banned abortion and many common forms of birth control such as the pill and IUDs.
“I think the most pro-life group in America is the Hispanic community,” Graham claimed. “Social conservatism is not our problem.”
Glossing over his own extreme anti-choice record, Graham then pivoted to take aim at his rivals’ lack of exceptions for rape and incest in abortion bans, despite having supported similar legislation himself in the past, claiming that this is the real problem Republicans face when alienating constituents.
Yet public polling on the issue paints a different picture. Exit polling conducted during the 2012 presidential elections found that the large majority of Latino voters supported legal access to abortion.
A full 66 percent of Latino voters leaving the polls that year said they supported legal abortion—more than the general voting population where a smaller majority, 59 percent, voiced the same position. Just 28 percent of Latinos polled disagreed.
More recently, a 2014 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found 48 percent of registered Latino voters think abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, while 44 percent believe it should be illegal—roughly the same as their white and Black counterparts.
Those numbers change slightly when those not registered to vote are included: 44 percent of all Latinos polled said that abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, while 51 percent said it should be illegal.
In some of the regions most impacted by restrictive anti-abortion legislation, support for abortion is even higher among Latinos. In Texas, where radical anti-choice measures and the rollback of abortion access have led more than 100,000 women to self-induce abortion, research conducted by nonpartisan research firm PerryUndem Research/Communication on behalf of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) found that 78 percent of Latino likely voters agreed “a woman has a right to make her own personal decisions about abortion without politicians interfering.”
According to the NLIRH, the notion that Latinos are largely anti-choice is nothing more than a myth. “Data suggest that voters, particularly those who turn out in elections, are just as—if not more—supportive of legal abortion as others,” explained the organization’s report on the poll’s findings. In truth, said the NLIRH, when Latinos are asked about abortion in more nuanced manners that go beyond simply asking about legality, they “tend to hold supportive and non-judgmental views toward abortion.”
Its findings mirrored a similar nationwide survey conducted by Lake Research Partners in 2011 that revealed that 74 percent of registered Latino voters agreed “that a woman has a right to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion without politicians interfering.”
That means that among Latinos who stand to make the biggest difference in the election—those who are registered voters—support for abortion is actually high. If Graham was relying on support from Latino voters to push his anti-choice stances, he may want to recalculate his strategy.