NRL News

Another mish-mash Pew poll on abortion

by | Dec 17, 2018

By Dave Andrusko

When you read Pew’s data/interpretation of abortion opinion, typically you reach one (or all) of three conclusions. First, they frontload their questions in a manner that guarantees the most support for legal abortion. Second, they state the stupendously obvious as if the conclusions were a revelation. Third, they ignore that there are many parts of the world that are very pro-life.

Here’s the latest from the Pew Research Center: “In the U.S. and Europe, women are about as likely as men to favor legal abortion.”

Three points.

1. As we have detailed in dozens of posts, there is a huge difference between what Pew reports and Gallup reports. This is because Pew refuses to do serious work. By that I mean, they will not follow Gallup’s example of moving beyond using the broadest categories.

For example, Pew simply asks if the respondent believes abortion should be legal in all/most cases; or illegal in all/most cases. That allows them to conclude, “Currently, 58% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.”

But as anyone, let alone professional pollsters know, the public is much more discerning. To its credit, Gallup includes an option for the respondent to say abortion should be legal in “certain circumstances.”

And when you follow that up and parse out the answers, what do you find about those people who say abortion should be legal in “certain circumstances?

Most say legal in only a “few” circumstances rather than “most” circumstances. This more nuanced question gives you the above figure: 53% say abortion should be legal in only a few circumstances (35%) or no circumstances (18%).

Second, the lead paragraph reads as follows:

Organizations that advocate for legal abortion often frame it as a women’s rights issue. But in many European countries and the United States, women do not differ significantly from men in their views about abortion, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data from 34 European nations and the U.S.

That’s because it is to the advantage of pro-abortion groups (Pew links to the National Women’s Law Center to pose the issue as women versus men so as to insist that being pro-life is some ploy of the Patriarchy.

In fact, as a global-wide generalization, women are at least as pro-life as men. Pew’s primary explanation for this—and the truism that in many countries women are more pro-life—is the influence of religion: Women tend to be more religious than men.

Many factors, including age and education, can influence opinions on abortion, but religion and religious observance often are highly correlated with attitudes on this issue. Indeed, one possible reason women in some countries may not be more supportive of legal abortion than men is women around the world tend to be more religious than men. In other words, attitudes toward abortion may be tied more closely to religion than gender. [My underlining.]

Third, as noted above, the way Pew frames the questions tilt the responses in the favor of support for abortion. The story starts with the high numbers in the U.S. and Western Europe without a hint this doesn’t apply everywhere.

But if you go through the links, you find that elsewhere in the world while it is true men and women have approximately the same views on abortion, they are much more pro-life than Western Europe and the United States. That is certainly true of people in Central and Eastern Europe.


In 17 of 19 countries and territories surveyed in Latin America and the Caribbean, women and men express similar views on legal abortion. For instance, a third of Mexican men (33%) say abortion should be legal, compared with about three-in-ten Mexican women (29%). While this exact question was not asked in a survey of sub-Saharan Africa, similar shares of men and women in all 19 countries surveyed – such as Uganda (13% and 12%, respectively) – say having an abortion is “morally acceptable.”

When you’re talking about essentially similar views on abortion between men and women, it makes a whole lot of difference if that agreement is at a higher (and inflated) level of support for abortion than a much lower level of support.

Guess what? That point is never made, or even alluded to.

Categories: Polling
Tags: poll