The 26 Effect
My apologies for not posting the last few days. Let’s take a look at the biggest story we missed: the vote on personhood in Mississippi.
You’re probably aware that Mississippi’s personhood amendment (Initiative 26) did not pass, despite looking like it would pass by a wide margin just a few weeks ago. Various groups have attempted a post-mortem examination. The most common explanations are that the sham group “Mississippians for Healthy Families” flooded the airwaves with misinformation, and that some pro-life leaders vocally opposed the amendment on strategic grounds.
Those are undoubtedly correct reasons. I’d like to offer one more theory: a cousin of the Bradley effect.
The Bradley effect, as you may know, concerns race:
[S]ome voters will tell pollsters they are undecided or likely to vote for a black candidate, while on election day they vote for the white candidate. It was named after Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American who lost the 1982 California governor’s race despite being ahead in voter polls going into the elections. The Bradley effect theorizes that the inaccurate polls were skewed by the phenomenon of social desirability bias. Specifically, some white voters give inaccurate polling responses for fear that, by stating their true preference, they will open themselves to criticism of racial motivation.
Bias against unborn children is pervasive in our society. Some even feel outright hostile toward them; think of epithets like “parasite.” But as the pro-life movement gains in popularity, it is socially undesirable for voters to admit those feelings to pollsters. Instead, some may publically say that they support human rights for the preborn, then vote against those rights in the privacy of the voting booth.
Call it the 26 effect.
The Bradley effect might also be called the "sounded good at first but then we learned more about it effect." When pro-life voters learned, for example, that it could possibly be overturned in court and uphold Roe, they realized it's not a panacea for ending abortion.
Interesting theory, but it has not been my experience that people are shy about opining that it's utterly ridiculous to think personhood begins at conception. Maybe it depends on where you live?
The Mississippi personhood amendment did absolutely nothing to support the personhood of women who need support to prevent unintended pregnancies, or get through & beyond them. No antiabortion law has any business omitting such measures.
As a Louisianian with family in Mississippi, I don't think voters were saying one thing and voting another. Mississippi is very pro-life, but I think the most likely reason it was defeated is that Mississippi has a problem with teen pregnancies and there was a lot of fear-mongering going on about how the Initiative would ban certain types of birth control.
Plenty of MS parents (and I know several of them) are already helping to raise their grandchildren while the young parents finish school; and while none of those grandparents would trade the babies for anything, that doesn't mean they want to lost the tools (the pill, other chemical BC) that help prevent more babies.
This is a fascinating theory.