Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut, Sometimes You Don't: Citizens' Ambivalence About Abortion



Recent research has recognized that many people simultaneously hold positive and negative attitudes about important political issues. This paper reviews the concept of attitudinal ambivalence and introduces a survey measure of ambivalence adapted from the experimental literature. An analysis of two statewide telephone surveys of Florida voters reveals that (1) a number of voters have ambivalent attitudes about abortion rights; (2) the amount of ambivalence varies according to the circumstances (elective versus traumatic) under which an abortion is obtained; (3) ambivalence about elective abortions is essentially unrelated to ambivalence about traumatic abortions; (4) voters who support abortion rights are more ambivalent about elective abortions than about traumatic abortions, whereas the pattern is reversed for abortion rights opponents; and (5) extreme views in support of or opposition to abortion rights can sometimes mitigate the amount of ambivalence felt by voters.