The Abortion Referendum in Portugal

The Influence of Psychosocial Variables in the Voting Intentions and Behavior of Portuguese Youth

in Volume 2 (2014): Issue 1 (Jun 2014): Feminist Perspectives Across the Board: Analyses and Approaches. Guest Editors: Barbara Franchi and Natália da Silva Perez

February 11th 2007 set the date for what would be an intense and passionate discussion on a gendered health related issue in Portugal: abortion. In the referendum, approximately 44% of the eligible population voted, and from these 59% voted for the legalization of abortion in Portugal. Hence, this referendum brought about changes in the Portuguese law, which now allows legal abortion to occur at the desire of the woman until the 10th week of pregnancy. The present research consists of a study in which 205 university students fully responded to 4 data collection sessions between November 2006 and March 2007. The goal of the study was to understand the most relevant psychosocial variables when trying to explain the voting intentions and voting behavior of Portuguese youth. The variables in the present study included participants’ gender, political orientation, religious affiliation and practice, sexual attitudes and attitudes towards abortion. Our results show that all of the above variables, except for gender, are relevant for the opinion formation about this topic. Approximately 94% of our participants reported they had the intention to vote, although only 64% of these actually voted on the day of the referendum. Finally, we found that participants rely mostly on the strength of their attitudes towards abortion in relation to their voting intention, while relying mostly on the strength of their normative religious beliefs in relation to their voting behavior. Implications of our results for understanding the politics of abortion legislation are discussed.

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