By Dave Andrusko
Last week we posted on Gallup’s newest numbers on various aspects of abortion, including self-identification (a slight shift: 47% self-identify as pro-choice to 46% pro-life) and how Lynda Saad interpreted a key set of numbers [http://nrlc.cc/1nBkLyf]. She wrote
“A second long-term Gallup trend, this one measuring Americans’ views on the extent to which abortion should be legal, finds 50% saying abortion should be “legal only under certain circumstances,” or in other words, favoring limited abortion rights. This stance has prevailed since 1975. However, a combined 49% of Americans takes a more hardline position, including 28% saying abortion should be legal in all circumstances and 21% believing it should be illegal in all circumstances.
I speculated this was much ado about nothing, and, it turns out, I was correct.
What Gallup failed to do was include a hyperlink to its methodology. So what? you might ask. By not providing that link, the reader could not know if, in fact, the results show much more support for “limited abortion rights” than the 50% figure suggested and whether the number of “hardliners” had actually increased.
Let me be more specific. Respondents are asked, “Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?”
What has made Gallup surveys much more useful in recent years is that they asked those who responded “legal only under certain circumstances” whether that meant “legal under most circumstances” or “legal only in a few circumstances.” That finer and more accurate explanation was not on the web page. Without the customary hyperlink to the methodology, we couldn’t even know if the question was asked.
Click here to read the May issue of
National Right to Life News,
the “pro-life newspaper of record.”
When it was asked in May 2013, a total of 58% said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances (20%) or legal only in a few circumstances (38%).
According to Saad, the “hardline” position has increased. As I explained last week that was true, but very, very little. In 2013, 26% said abortion should be legal under any circumstances –versus 28% this year–while 20% said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances last year —as compared to 21% in 2014. 2+1=3 point change.
But it turns out in May 2014 that Gallup did inquire of those who responded “legal only under certain circumstances” (a friend found the results and forwarded them to me). Sure enough, the pro-life response was exactly what it had been one year before.
That is, 21% said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances (one point more than 2013) and 37% said abortion should be legal only in a few circumstances (one point less), the same exact 58% total.
I would like to reiterate what I wrote last week. Said concluded,
“Nineteen percent of U.S. registered voters currently say candidates for major offices must share their views on abortion to get their vote. This number slightly eclipses the 16% to 17% seen since 2004 and is significantly higher than the 13% to 14% that Gallup recorded between 1992 and 2000. Only once, in May 2001, was the figure higher, at 21%.” Okay, so which side has the advantage?
She continues, “Gallup finds more pro-life voters than pro-choice voters saying they will only back candidates who share their views, 24% vs. 16%. Thus, the pro-life side has more intensity on the issue.” So far, so good.
Saad then concludes, ”However, because there are more pro-choice than pro-life registered voters (50% to 44%), this equates to 11% of all registered voters saying they will only vote for pro-life candidates and 8% saying they will only vote for pro-choice candidates — not a great advantage or disadvantage for either side.” Two things about that.
First, it is true, generally, that registered voters are more likely to vote than those who wait until the last minute. But I’d love to know what evidence there is that in recent elections, there have been more pro-choice than pro-life registered voters (in this poll by 6 points, 50-44).
Second, many, many, many elections are nail-bitters. A net 3% advantage is potential pivotal. It should not be dismissed as “not a great advantage or disadvantage for either side.”