Tuesday, January 26, 2016

New Study Shows: Assisted Suicide may be a Poison Pill at the Polls

A recent study by Dr Jacqueline Harvey and published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute shows that support for assisted suicide may have negative consequences for politicians who support assisted suicide.

Opposition to assisted suicide has historically been bi-partisan with over 99.9%, more than 175 bills in 34 states and the District of Columbia since 1991 have been rejected or quietly ignored by lawmakers, since there was little to indicate if constituents would reward them with votes - or if they would be risking re-election by championing an issue that divides Americans virtually in half. Fortunately science may finally have some answers on how voters respond to assisted suicide at the polls.

New research out of Tarleton State University, recently presented at the 2016 Southern Political Science Association Conference combed through all 180 of the 2014 Vermont races, as well as 2015 repeal efforts to determine if there were any risks or rewards when vying for election associated specifically with a candidate’s position for or against assisted suicide. Entitled “Assisted Suicide at the Polls: Risks & Rewards Associated with Voting to Legalize Assisted Suicide vs. Maintaining the Status Quo,” and available at the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that a candidate’s position on assisted suicide may present potential risk without reward for those in favor, or potential reward without risk for those opposed.

Supporting suicide reduced the likelihood of re-election for lawmakers in Vermont, the first state to pass an assisted suicide bill, Act 39 in 2013 and the only state yet to hold elections. Opposing assisted suicide presented no such risk, but may have aided challengers who unseated six pro-assisted suicide politicians - including the primary sponsor of the bill. An endorsement the state-level pro-assisted suicide political action committee, Patient Choices Vermont showed no reward for politicians.

Risks of losing an election were limited exclusively to those who supported assisted suicide and campaigned on this position, a total of six seats lost to anti-assisted suicide successors. Candidates opposing assisted suicide had no risk, and none were unseated by the opposition. Most notably, one of the casualties of the 2014 elections was the bill’s primary sponsor, Linda Waite-Simpson. Rather than rewarded for her efforts, she was replaced by a newcomer who voted to repeal.

Furthermore, if candidates opposing assisted suicide also campaigned (like those who were pro-assisted suicide), candidates opposed to assisted suicide showed a potential reward factor of nine seats, while pro-assisted suicide candidates still showed no reward factor, but the pro-assisted suicide risk factor increased to seven seats. This was statistically significant (p=.00087) with a strong relationship (v=1).

Overall, support for assisted suicide is not a winning campaign issue. Considering the casualties, assisted suicide may even be political suicide.

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