Looking much closer at Gallup’s new abortion polls tells us something very different than an initial reading would suggest

By Dave Andrusko

On the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Gallup posted an interesting analysis of what it described as “Dissatisfaction With U.S. Abortion Laws at New High [58%].” For Lydia Saad, the biggest difference this year over last year goes like this:

“On average from 2001 to 2017, about a quarter of U.S. adults were dissatisfied with abortion laws and wanted them to be stricter. However, since then, the percentage wanting the laws to be less strict has increased to the point that roughly equal percentages of U.S. adults now are dissatisfied and favor less strict laws (22%) as are dissatisfied and want stricter laws (24%).”

Let’s dig deeper, as you must with abortion polling.

True, the percentage of dissatisfaction is the highest ever—58% in 2020—an increase of 7 points from 2019 [51%]. But I think most readers would infer from Saad’s comments that those who want abortion laws to be less strict is much higher than previously [“has increased to the point”] and that, equally important, the difference between those favoring more strict and those favoring less strict laws has really shrunk.

But is that true? In 2019, those who wanted abortion laws more strict enjoyed a 3 point advantage [21% to 18%]. In 2020, they were the beneficiaries of a 2 point advantage [24% to 22%].

To state the obvious, this represents a tiny, tiny change and well within any margin of error.

To state the equally obvious, there is more dissatisfaction than ever with the state of our nation’s abortion laws.

Two other points (of many) especially worth considering.

1. Saad writes, “In addition to Republicans, Protestants, adults with no college education, and Americans aged 55 and older are substantially more likely to favor making the laws on abortion more rather than less strict. Men and non-Hispanic whites as a whole also lean this way.

“Along with Democrats, nonreligious Americans and adults younger than 35 are much more in favor of making the laws less strict than making them stricter. Nonwhites and adults with postgraduate education are slightly more in favor of the laws being less strict.”

Isn’t it interesting that Gallup does not tell us what Hispanics think about whether to tighten or loosen abortion laws? My guess is, because Hispanics are culturally pro-life, they are in category of wanting more strict laws.

2. In December Gallup posted a story under the headline “Several Issues Tie as Most Important in 2020 Election.”

Gallup asked respondents about a number of issues and asked how important any given issue would be in deciding their vote for President in 2020– “extremely important, very important, somewhat important or not important.”

What do we learn from Zach Hrynowski’s story about abortion as an issue?

64% said abortion would be very important or extremely important. Note that 28% of Republicans versus 23% of Democrats said the abortion issue was “extremely important”—a difference of 5 points.

We will see a gazillion polls between now and Election Day which purport to tell us what role the abortion issue will play in 2020. Come to NRL News Today. NRLC has experts with decades of experience in understanding and explaining what surveys about abortion truly mean.