Deconstructing the latest misleading Pew Research poll on abortion

By Dave Andrusko

As NRL News Today has discussed multiple times, it is much more useful—and accurate—to read Gallup’s polls on abortion than Pew Research’s. The former is much more nuanced and fine-tuned than the latter because it probes beneath initial more global responses (more about that below). So when you read Pew Research’s, “Today, a 59% majority of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39% think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases,” you must take it with a pound of salt.

So, last Thursday, the Pew Research Center produced the results of its first survey on abortion taken since pro-abortion Joe Biden assumed office. We’re told 5,109 adults were questioned between April 5-11.  The highlight is clearly that Democrats and Democrat-leaners are more uniformly pro-abortion than ever. More about that in a moment.

A few thoughts. #1. In one area, there is a 1% change in a pro-life direction with 1% more saying abortion should be illegal in all cases and a 1% decrease in the number who say abortion should be legal in most cases. This just reaffirms that, collectively, abortion opinions change very little, short and medium term.

#2. There are a number of divisions along religious lines. Here’s one of particular interest. To quote Pew’s Hannah Hartig

White evangelical Protestants continue to be opposed to abortion in all or most cases. Around three-quarters of White evangelicals (77%) say it should be illegal in all or most cases, while 21% say it should be legal in at least most cases. In contrast, a majority of White Protestants who are not evangelical (63%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.  

Religious “nones” – those who are religiously unaffiliated – overwhelmingly support legal abortion. Around eight-in-ten (82%) say it should be legal in all or most cases, while just 16%say it should be illegal.

#3. What about the aforementioned increasing enthusiasm among Democrats and Democrat-liners for abortion legal in all or most cases? Well, for starters, the gap between them and Republicans (80% versus 35%) is the largest ever. 

Why? Because there is less support for legal abortion in all or most cases among Republicans even as the Democrats support for legal abortion in all or most cases continues to rise. Hartig writes

This wider gap is mostly attributable to a steady increase in support for legal abortion among Democrats. In 2007, roughly two-thirds of Democrats and Democratic leaners (63%) said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Support among Democrats has risen by nearly 20 points since then, and 80% now say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Views among Republicans have remained relatively steady during this period. In 2007, around four-in-ten Republicans (39%) said abortion should be legal in all or most cases; today, 35% say this.

#4. We started with Hartig’s  summary: “Today, a 59% majority of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39% think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.” That simply is drastically misleading.

Gallup asks respondents if they believe abortion should be legal under any circumstances, legal under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances. 

But, , by contrast,  as veteran Gallup analyst Lydia Saad points out, since 1994 Gallup has “asked those who think abortion should be legal under certain circumstances to say whether it should be legal in ‘most’ or ‘only a few’ circumstances.”

When you offer people these fuller options, it turns out that (as of May 2020) a total of 55% said abortion should be legal “only in a few circumstances” (35%) or “illegal in all circumstances” (20%).

As you will read, laid out in detail this week in the monthly issue of National Right to Life News, Congress and the presidency are controlled by pro-abortion Democrats whose support for abortion on demand paid for by the public is not supported by the public but who are pushing for it anyway. 

We can and we must stay and we will stay vigilant. Part of staying vigilant is not to be snookered by polls like one produced by Pew Research.

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