Abortion reform erodes voter support for ruling Popular Party

Metroscopia survey shows Socialists would win elections with 1.5 percentage-point lead

The abortion reform has damaged the Popular Party (PP)’s chances for re-election, a new Metroscopia survey for EL PAÍS shows.

After back-to-back polls showing PP victories over the opposition Socialists (PSOE), which lost power in a staggering defeat in November 2011, the tide seems to have turned.

The show of voter sentiment indicates that the PSOE would win elections with a 1.5 percentage-point lead over the PP. The only other time when the PSOE seemed poised to beat its rival in hypothetical elections was in September 2013, but just by four tenths of a point.

This shift in voting intention seems attributable to the abortion reform sponsored by Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who proposes eliminating the possibility of pregnancy termination when the fetus suffers from serious congenital disorders. The project has drawn vocal opposition even within the PP, some of whose elected representatives have requested the right to a conscience vote.

If elections were held tomorrow, the PP would get 32 percent of votes and the Socialists 33.5 percent, although error margins mean the result is a technical tie.

If elections were held tomorrow, the PP would get 32 percent of votes and the Socialists 33.5 percent

The survey also shows that the sum of votes for both main parties remains at a historical low, favoring the rise of minority parties such as United Left, which would obtain a record 12.5 percent of votes, while Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) would receive 7.3-percent support.

These results suggest that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s decision to address abortion reform is strategically more detrimental than beneficial to his party. Allegations that the project is a wink to party hardliners do not seem to be translating into more votes.

In fact, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón’s popularity ratings have plummeted, to the point that he has taken the least-popular minister crown away from his education counterpart José Ignacio Wert. Other Cabinet members to take a serious hit in the polls are Industry Minister José Manuel Soria for his handling of the electricity rate row, and Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz for his Citizens Safety Law and his ETA policies.

The controversy over abortion reform, which has been described in EU circles as “a law against women,” affords the PSOE a perfect platform for recovery: it gives the Socialists an issue to really sink its teeth into, mobilizing left-wing voters against the PP’s overall attack on personal rights and civil liberties.

Another negative effect for the ruling party is that the abortion issue is eclipsing other news about an alleged economic recovery, which was meant to be the basis for Rajoy’s political strategy this year. While his first two years in office were marked by sacrifices and unmet financial targets, 2014 was supposed to be the year when the positive results of those measures started to be felt.

Yet the Metroscopia survey shows that Spaniards are failing to notice the much-heralded economic recovery. While 89 percent of respondents said the economic situation was still negative, 68 percent said it would continue the same way or get worse, while 65 percent do not expect any improvement in the jobless figures any time soon.

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