By David N. O’Steen, Ph.D., NRLC Executive Director
Recent Polling by the Polling Company found that a substantial majority of registered voters say that they are familiar with Planned Parenthood and a majority has a favorable impression of that organization.  However, the same poll found that a majority did not know that Planned Parenthood performs abortions, despite the fact that it is the largest provider of abortions in the United States.
Specifically, 88% said that they were familiar with Planned Parenthood with 41% saying that they were very familiar and 47% saying that they were somewhat familiar. 40% said they knew someone who had received services at a Planned Parenthood.
Although 63% said that they had a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood, including 38% of those who identified themselves as pro-life, 55% of those polled did not know that Planned Parenthood performs abortions.
(Even 50% of pro-life respondents did not know that Planned Parenthood performs abortions.)
Of the 45% who knew that Planned Parenthood performs abortions, the majority greatly underestimated the number of abortions Planned Parenthood performs annually.
In 2011, the last year for which the data is available, Planned Parenthood performed 333,964 abortions, or just over 27% of all abortions performed in the United States. Yet of the 45% who knew that Planned Parenthood performs abortions, only 14% (6% of the entire sample) knew that they perform over 300,000 abortions annually.
These results show that Planned Parenthood’s campaign to publicly minimize its involvement with abortion and instead portray itself as a mainstream health care provider has so far met with a large degree of success.
However, this also means that Planned Parenthood’s current degree of favorability is, for many, based on a false perception of an organization they think they know, but don’t.
Other results from the poll indicate that widespread knowledge of Planned Parenthood’s abortion business would result in a significant drop in its favorability, especially among pro-lifers.
For example, the Polling Company’s poll found that 53% would either prohibit all abortions, or allow them in only life of mother cases. or in cases of rape or incest. This is far removed from Planned Parenthood’s practice of performing abortion as a method of birth control.
Planned Parenthood’s favorability would also likely suffer if there was widespread knowledge that some of their affiliates perform late abortions. The poll found that 64% would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks, a time at which there is substantial evidence that the unborn child can feel pain.
 The poll was conducted February 28 – March 3, 2003 of 1,003 registered voters with a margin of error of 3.1%.