Though partisans on both sides claim credit for electoral victories and defeats, and politicians treat both groups with deference, few studies have attempted to gauge the impact of the abortion issue in more than an anecdotal manner. In 1976, NARAL noted that of the 13 members of the U.S. Representatives that lost re-election bids, nine were pro-life, and four were pro-choice. A study conducted by the Alan Guttmacher Institute of the 1974 House races found that, in “competitive” districts, 92 percent of the pro-choice candidates studied were re-elected while only 61 percent of the pro-life candidates were returned to Congress, Among Republicans, 58 percent of the pro-life candidates won while the only pro-choice Republican in the sample lost. Of the Democrats studied, 100 percent of the pro-choice incumbents won while 75 percent of the pro-life members were re-elected. Overall, 98 percent (61 of 62) of the pro-choice members won while 81 percent (92 of 113) of the pro-life members prevailed.
An investigation which looks only at victory or defeat must, by design, obscure valuable information. For example, candidate A may be pro-life while incumbent candidate B is pro-choice. Incumbent B is re-elected, so everyone assumes that the abortion issue did not harm him. If, however, candidates from B’s party normally collect 56 percent of the vote, but B received only 50.1 percent, it is obvious that something perhaps the abortion issue—hampered B’s performance. Furthermore, the partisan tides in the 1974 election may undermine the reliability of the Guttmacher study results. As most Republican candidates are pro-life and most Democratic candidates are pro-choice, any general tendency favoring Democrats will favor the pro-choice position.
1 Yale L. And Pol. Rev. 1 (1982).
Stempel, Jeffrey W., "Electoral Folklore: An Empirical Examination of the Abortion Issue" (1982). Scholarly Works. Paper 188.