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Meredith Poll: Majority in NC support legal access to abortion, more divided on other “culture war” issues

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to overturn Roe v. Wade, a new Meredith College poll shows more than half of North Carolina registered voters surveyed support keeping Roe’s provisions in the state or expanding access to legal abortion.

Just over half of those surveyed (52.6 percent) said they want to see a state law preserving the level of access to abortion under Roe or expanding it further. Just under 40 percent said they want a law that severely restricts access or makes it illegal in all circumstances.

Just 10 percent of respondents said they would like to see abortion made illegal in all cases and  9 percent said they would like to see it severely restricted, making it illegal after 15 weeks. A larger number – 20 percent – said they would like to see it made illegal unless a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life or the pregnancy is the result or rape or incest.

“The expected decision by the conservative Court to overturn Roe will eventually lead to a very divisive fight over abortion law in North Carolina,” said David McLellan, director of the Meredith Poll, in a statement on the results. “Currently, the Republicans cannot overturn a veto from [ Democratic] Governor Cooper, but if they pick up a few more seats and get a veto-proof majority, we may see North Carolina go the way of Texas or other states and immediately try to restrict abortion rights, even if most of the state’s citizens favor protecting abortion rights.”

Respondents were sharply divided by partisanship on the issue of abortion than nearly any other issue in the poll. More than three quarters of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said they would like to keep the current level of access to abortion or see it expended. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans said they would like to see more restrictions or for it to be made illegal.

The poll also showed a sharp divide by age of respondents. More than two-thirds of respondents 18-24 years old said they want to keep the level of access under Roe or see it expanded. Older voters were much more evenly divided on the issue.

The poll found respondents much more divided on other “culture war” issues that may play a part in the coming midterm elections and beyond – including laws restricting mentioning of LGBTQ people in schools

The poll asked registered voters in the state about the Florida law restricting public school teachers and employees from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly in lower grades. The legislation, called “Don’t Say Gay” by critics. allows parents to sue the school system if they believe teachers and staff members violate the law.

Nearly half (47.1 percent) of respondents in the Meredith poll said they believe public elementary school parents should be able to sue schools if teachers or staff discuss sexual orientation or gender identity. Those surveyed were evenly split on the question of enacting this type of law for all public school grade levels, with 41.5 percent in support and 41.7 percent against.

A strong majority of Republicans (nearly 60 percent) said they supported such a law in North Carolina elementary schools. The poll found strong support among respondents identifying as Hispanic/Latinx and older respondents.

“Public education will continue to be a political battlefield in 2022 and beyond,” McLellan said in his statement. “Cultural issues such as discussing sexual identity, banning transgender athletes from participating in school sports, and banning books with certain content are all part of the culture wars being fought in electoral politics. As we saw in the Virginia governor’s race last year, Republicans can be very successful in appealing to parental rights on a host of educational topics.”

The poll also asked respondents about evolving marijuana laws, noting that 18 states and Washington D.C. now allow legal medical and recreational use by adults and another 17 allow adult medical use.  In North Carolina, only cannabidiol (CBD) use is legal, except on some tribal land. A bill expanding medical use in the state could see movement this month and has the support of influential Republican state lawmakers.

More than 60 percent of respondents said they would support expanding legal access either for medical or recreational use.

Nearly 38 percent of respondents in the Meredith poll said they are for expanding medical and recreational use while nearly 23 percent said they would support legalizing medial use only. Another 18 percent said they are for keeping the law as it is, allowing CBD use only and 13 percent said all forms of marijuana and CBD should be illegal in the state.

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