After a USA Today/Gallup poll showed women in swing states thought abortion the top election issue, CNN hyped the news and cast a wary eye toward "controversial" Republican positions as the possible catalysts. Five days later, however, Gallup reported that, nationally, abortion is near the bottom of importance among voters.
CNN hosts Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper led their October 18 shows with the swing state poll, and anchor Carol Costello touted it the next morning. Costello wondered if "controversial" statements by certain Republicans were to blame for women suddenly treating abortion with utmost importance.
"And that has more than a few women asking, abortion? Why now? Maybe it's because there's been so much controversial language surrounding the issue lately, like Congressman Todd Akin's legitimate rape comments," Costello played into the Democratic talking points.
Burnett and Cooper used the swing state poll as an occasion to fact-check Mitt Romney's past record on abortion, labeling it contradictory and "a little confusing." Cooper did nail President Obama for misrepresenting Romney's abortion record, but he focused more time on Romney's contradictory positions.
On October 22, Gallup reported, "Abortion was the top issue named by women voters in 12 key swing states as 'the most important issue for women in this election,' according to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll. By contrast, 1% of women and less than 1% of men, nationally, consider it the most important problem facing the nation."
Gallup acknowledged that both candidates have spent time on "women-centric issues such as abortion, birth control, and, more recently, gender equity in the workplace." However, they added that "women and men put nearly identical emphasis on the economy and unemployment as the nation's most important problems, suggesting that these are the issues they will consider most when voting."