By Dave Andrusko
Coming less than a week after Gallup’s 2011 Values and Beliefs survey, the results of a poll conducted for National Public Radio offers a bevy of good news. As always, the numbers from the poll, conducted for NPR by Thomson Reuters, need to be read up and down and sideways to get the real picture.
For example, unlike Gallup, NPR did not further breakdown the results from its initial question: Do you think abortion should be legal in all cases; legal in most cases; illegal in most cases; or illegal in all cases.
Combining the first two (20.2% legal in all and 31.7% legal in most cases) gave a total of 52% versus 48% for the latter two (28% illegal in most cases and 19.2% in all cases). Had NPR asked a more discriminating follow up question—as Gallup did–no doubt the responses would have been very similar to Gallup’s: a total of 60% saying abortion should be legal in only a few circumstances or no circumstances.
But that limitation notwithstanding, the most revealing answer is found when the percentages are broken out according to age. Who do you think would be the most pro-life? The youngest—under age 35.
31.6% said abortion should be illegal in most cases and another 25.5% said abortion should be illegal in all cases—a total of a 57.1%.
After the legality issue, NPR asked a slightly different question than did Gallup.
NPR asked “do you personally believe having an abortion is wrong?” 59.3% said yes, having an abortion is wrong, as compared to 40.7% who said no, it is not wrong. Again the youngest age group—under 35—had the most pro-life response: 65.5% said having an abortion is wrong.
51% of the 1,018 adults told Gallup that abortion is “morally wrong,” while 39% said it is “morally acceptable.” [Gallup’s “morally wrong” is stronger than “wrong.”]
It gets even more interesting. NPR asked, “Would you like to see abortion laws in this country made…more strict; less strict; remain the same?” (Remember, most people still believe the myth that there are significant limitations on abortion, perhaps confined to only the first trimester.)
Overall, 45.9% wanted the laws more strict while a total of 54.1% wanted abortion laws to remain the same (36.3) or made less strict (17.8%).
How about the under 35 respondents? 54.6% wanted abortion laws made more strict. Only 12.5% wanted them less strict while 32.9% wanted these laws to remain the same.
There are two other questions, but one’s wording is so complicated that it’s best to skip to the final question. “Say someone buys private health insurance using government assistance to help pay for it. Do you think insurance sold that way should or should not be allowed to include coverage for abortions?”
A whopping 58% said no, it shouldn’t (64.% of those under 35) to only 42% who said yes.
NPR says the telephone survey of 3,013 adults was conducted during the first two weeks of March. The margin of error is quite small–plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.