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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