Miss. Voters Split on 'Personhood' Amendment, Latest Polling Shows

November 8, 2011 — As Mississippi voters head to the polls on Tuesday, a new survey shows that 45% of respondents support the proposed "personhood" amendment, 44% opposed it and 11% are undecided, Politico reports. The initiative would amend the state constitution to define the word "person" as beginning at the moment of fertilization.

According to the new Public Policy Polling survey -- conducted Nov. 4 to Nov. 6 among 796 likely voters -- 48% of men and 42% of women said they would vote in favor of the amendment. Opinions on the measure broke along party lines, with 65% of Republicans supporting it, compared with 23% of Democrats. Sixty-one percent of Democrats and 28% of Republicans said they would vote against it. Whites were more likely than blacks to support the initiative, with 54% stating they would vote for it, compared with 26% of blacks (Lee, Politico, 11/7).

"Things can definitely go either way [on Tuesday]," Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen said. According to Jensen, the outcome likely will hinge on voter turnout. Turnout among black voters, who mostly oppose the amendment, historically has been low in Mississippi. The state also is electing a new governor on Tuesday, and the lack of a strong Democratic candidate could deter Democrats, who mostly oppose the measure, from coming to the polls.

Stakes Are High

Tuesday's vote has significant legal and political implications, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports. If approved, the amendment is expected to be challenged in court (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 11/7).

The word "person" appears more than 9,000 times in the Mississippi Constitution, according to the Huffington Post. The amendment would not only outlaw abortion, including in cases of rape, incest or threats to the woman's life, but advocates on both sides say it could have further-reaching consequences. Opponents warn that the initiative could be interpreted to ban certain forms of birth control, restrict in vitro fertilization and outlaw embryonic stem cell research. It also could make it impossible for doctors to treat women with potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancies without violating the law (Bassett, Huffington Post, 11/7).