By Dave Andrusko
For years NRL News Today has closely follows Gallup’s surveys of how Americans self-identify on abortion. They are more complete and thus more accurate than the results from Rasmussen Reports, which are still worth reporting.
In a way, Rasmussen Reports’ numbers are like the CDC numbers on abortion while Gallup more resembles Guttmacher’s. Guttmacher tracks more regularly and in more detail than the CDC. Likewise Gallup vis a vis Rasmussen.
In the case of Rasmussen Reports’ latest numbers on how Americans self-identify on abortion, the difference is closer to what Gallup has recently shown than usual. According to Rasmussen 48% of likely voters consider themselves pro-choice to 44% pro-life—a margin of four points.
By contrast when we last reported on Gallup at the end of May, there was a one point margin: 47% self-identified as pro-choice to 46% pro-life. It took a little more work to find this than usual, but Gallup had continued to find a solid pro-life majority when asked under what circumstances abortion should be legal.
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 in 2014 as 2013.
What the poll revealed also spoke to how the abortion issue might play out in the upcoming mid-term elections. Gallup’s Lydia Saad wrote
“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?
“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.”
It’s also very important to remember that as recently as May 2012, Gallup poll found that 50% identified themselves as pro-life and only 41% identified themselves as pro-choice. However, the Polling Company’s post-2012 election poll found 51% identified as pro-choice and 43% as pro-life.
Did that mean that there had been a fundamental shift in how Americans view abortion? Not at all. As we have seen over the past year and a half, the number of self-identified pro-lifers has grown to parity with self-identified pro-choicers—and there is every reason to believe the pro-life numbers will continue to grow.
The Movement took a hit in 2012 (as NRLC Executive Director David N. O’Steen, Ph. D., explained) because “A determined, one-sided media together with a sequence of most unfortunate statements by candidates created a ‘perfect storm’ that played into and greatly augmented the pro-abortion narrative [the infamous/bogus ‘War on Women’] in this election.”