Social issues change minds, notably among independent women, the survey found. Thirteen percent of women who identified themselves as independents said they had changed their mind about who to vote for as a result of news on reproductive issues, compared with 9 percent of Republican women and 7 percent of Democratic women.
Social issues have great emotional resonance in political campaigns and are thus risky subjects for emphasis in close elections. That's why House Republican leaders last month struck a deal with Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., to bring up the gender-based anti-abortion bill for a vote on its own, rather than attach it to the controversial Violence Against Women Act.
On Thursday, Franks' bill got a vote — under a rule that required the support of two-thirds of the House. It failed by 30 votes. A leadership aide said there were no plans to bring it up for passage by a simple majority. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss strategy.
Steering away from social issues doesn't sit easily with some conservatives. Buchanan, for example, is still advocating on his blog for a culture war. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, a leader of the House's most conservative members, said he hopes House GOP leaders will bring back Franks' anti-abortion bill for passage with a simple majority.
"I think there's an understanding among everyone about how serious the fiscal situation is, that under President Obama, our economy is not growing the way we want it to grow," said Jordan, who like Boehner is from swing state Ohio. "But just because we understand that doesn't mean we have abandoned or forgotten the idea that there are certain fundamental principles and values that are worth defending."
First things first, countered another swing-state Republican, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri.
"I truly believe that those things will shake out in a more positive way if we can just deal with the issues that we really need to deal with, on the economy and fiscal side," Emerson said. "And shame on us if we can't do it."
Associated Press Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.
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