By Dave Andrusko
The headline on the Associated Press story today reads, “Support for legal abortion rises to nearly 6 in 10 Americans, poll finds.” Let’s see what this poll “conducted after three people were killed last month in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado” does and doesn’t tell us.
According to the AP’s Nancy Benac and Emily Swanson, “Nearly six in 10 Americans — 58 percent — now think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 51 percent who said so at the beginning of the year, according to the AP-GfK survey.” The AP story tells us
“The Associated Press-GfK poll on abortion was conducted by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications Dec. 3-7. It is based on online interviews of 1,007 adults who are members of GfK’s nationally representative KnowledgePanel.”
You can examine the numbers for yourself here.
The poll results are far more interesting than the AP headline which crops up in news outlets across the country. With that in mind, let’s discuss four components.
#1. Are we really supposed to believe that support for abortion legal in all or most cases actually rose a total 7 points in eleven months—from 51% to 58%? Or did it represent an immediate visceral response to the deaths of three people at a PPFA clinic that was attributed, directly and/or indirectly, to pro-lifers? The obvious answer is we won’t know for at least a few more months but that it is plausible the figure will recede.
To quote the Washington Post (under the headline “Support for abortion rights hits two-year high after Planned Parenthood shooting”), “The rise in abortion support in the latest AP-Gfk survey may be fleeting. Research has shown that Americans’ attitudes regarding abortion have been relatively consistent over the decades, despite the occasional fluctuation.” Actually, the numbers have moved in our direction, but that’s a different story.
#2. The categories are sloppy and poorly written. Here’s the questions:
Which comes closest to your opinion on abortion? Abortion should be…
Legal in all cases—23%
Legal in most cases—35%
Illegal in most cases—26%
Illegal in all cases—12%
As NRL News Today has explained on countless occasions, when Gallup asks its abortion questions, it asks a follow up question to those who say abortion should be legal “under certain circumstances.” They are asked whether they believe abortion should be legal “in most circumstances or in only a few circumstances?” Generally speaking, there are three times as many who say “in only a few circumstances.”
Which means that in a Gallup poll taken earlier this year, there was a total of 55% who said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances (19%) or only a few circumstances (36%).
#3. This the AP managed to miss altogether:
Should abortion laws in the United States be…
Total more strict—37% (much more strict—19%; somewhat more strict—18%);
Left as they are—37%;
Total less strict—27% (much less strict—13%; somewhat less strict—14%)
To be clear more of the public wants stricter laws than wants much less strict laws, 19% to 13%.
#4. The AP-GfK survey also asked
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Planned Parenthood? If you don’t know enough about Planned Parenthood to have an opinion, you can say that too.
45%-30%-24%. What can we say about this? (The wording is slightly different in the following polls.)
When Gallup polled in 1989, 82% of Americans had a favorable impression of Planned Parenthood. In a February 2012 Quinnipiac University poll, 55% had a favorable opinion of PPFA, 22% an unfavorable opinion.
But a July 30-August 2, 2015, Monmouth University poll found 37% had a favorable view of PPFA and 26% an unfavorable view. A CBS News/New York Times September 2015 poll found 40% of Americans had a favorable opinion of PPFA and 27% an unfavorable opinion of PPFA.
So the numbers for PPFA have dropped enormously, not just since 1989 but since February 2012. For the moment, they have stabilized, in no small part, I would guess, because of the countless news stories, columns, and editorials painting the $1.3 billion “non-profit” as a victim.
My guess is the numbers will begin their decline again in the not-too-distant future. PPFA carries way too much baggage.