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Politics
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The Culture Wars Return To Raleigh

With the pending U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage expected, and the issue of whether North Carolina magistrate’s should be allowed a ‘religious objection’ to performing same-sex marriages, the culture wars over social issues are still being fought in earnest.

While the intra-party battle between the Republican governor and the GOP General Assembly played out over Senate Bill 2 (allowing magistrates to opt out of performing same sex weddings), the governor surprised most everyone by signing an abortion bill that increases the waiting period to 72 hours, with the claim that he prevented more restrictive measures from being included in the bill.

This prompted many to recall then-candidate McCrory’s debate statement in 2012. When asked, “If you were elected governor, what further restrictions on abortion would you agree to sign?”, he succinctly answered “None.”

This political paradox—of signing an abortion bill but vetoing a bill related to gay marriage—seemed to send mixed signals from a governor who is trying to thread a delicate needle of a moderate “Eisenhower Republican” image against his party’s more conservative alignment.

So do conservatives place greater priority on abortion or gay marriage?

In the 2012 American National Election Studies survey of 5,800 national respondents, questions were asked about both gay marriage and abortion.

Forty-one percent of all respondents indicated that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry, 34 percent said that same sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions, but not legally marry, while 25 percent said there should be no legal recognition of a gay or lesbian couple’s relationship.

When it comes to abortion, 44 percent of all respondents said “by law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice.” Sixteen percent said the law “should permit abortion for reasons other than rape, incest, or danger to the woman.” Another 28 percent said abortions should only be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or the woman’s life is in danger, and 12 percent said “by law, abortion should never be permitted.”

But when broken down by respondent’s self-identification by ideology, it would seem that those who identify as “conservative,” placed greater emphasis on opposing gay marriage than abortion.

When offered the most conservative response option to questions on abortion and same sex marriage, 38 percent of conservatives agreed with the idea that there should be “no legal recognition of a gay or lesbian couple’s relationship,” while only 18 percent of conservatives support the idea that “by law, abortion should never be permitted.”

If the answers “by law, abortion should never be permitted” and “the law should permit abortion only” in the cases of rape, incest or the woman’s life is in danger are combined, then 54 percent of conservatives agreed with those statements.

While most conservatives in the last presidential election showed a greater level of support for the conservative position on gay marriage over the most conservative position on abortion, the likelihood is that same-sex marriage seems to be moving into the direction of broad-based support.

In a new Pew Research poll, 72 percent of all respondents, as well as 72 percent of Democrats and Republicans, said that gay marriage is inevitable. Overall, 57 percent of Pew respondents said they now favor same-sex marriages.

For McCrory, the willingness to buck his own party’s conservative ideology may be a tacit acknowledgement of the political obstacle course as he enters his 2016 re-election campaign. He’s both appeasing a conservative base while sending a signal to the moderate middle.