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Not surprisingly NPR abortion poll misleading

by | Jun 7, 2019

By Dave Andrusko

The abortion polls keep on rolling in. Today’s poll was conducted for NPR/PBS NewsHour by the Marist Polling company.

The headline to the story is accurate, as far as it goes— “Poll: Majority Want To Keep Abortion Legal, But They Also Want Restrictions”—but there’s a long ways to go.

Part of what I do for a living is reading and understanding polls. However the questioning in this poll is so incredibly complicated I can’t imagine many people fully followed the options they were being offered.

Here’s the conclusion NPR’s Domenico Montanaro draws:

A total of 77% say the Supreme Court should uphold Roe, but within that there’s a lot of nuance — 26% say they would like to see it remain in place, but with more restrictions added; 21% want to see Roe expanded to establish the right to abortion under any circumstance; 16% want to keep it the way it is; and 14% want to see some of the restrictions allowed under Roe reduced. Just 13% overall say it should be overturned.

Let’s see what we get when we dig deeper.

1. What is the question asked of 944 adults by telephone from May 31 through June 4?

“In 1973, the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court established the constitutional right of women to legally obtain an abortion. Over time, other laws have expanded or restricted this ruling.” Do you think the U.S. Supreme Court today should decide to [Then the six options.]:

Without going into detail, this statement is loaded with the kind of buzzwords you would not use unless you were frontloading to obtain the desired responses. For more, see #3.

2. A total of only 39% said they would like to see it “remain in place, but with more restrictions” [26%] or “overturned [13%]”. Is that consistent with any other poll? No.

How about a total of 51% who said they either want to see Roe “expanded to establish the right to abortion under any circumstance” [21%]; “some of the restrictions allowed under Roe reduced” [14%]; or “keep it the way it is” [16%]? That is not what you typically find in any abortion poll not conducted by the abortion industry.

3. Going back to #1, consider how this might confuse the respondents—“Over time, other laws have expanded or restricted this ruling.” [My underlining.]

They were just told about Roe v. Wade. Was Roe a “law,” as well?

And is always the case, nothing told to respondents explains how Roe decimated the laws on abortion of all 50 states. What if this question were ever to be asked: “In 1973, the Supreme Court overturned the abortion laws of all 50 states, allowing abortion essentially on demand throughout pregnancy. Should Roe be changed [or overturned] to allow states to once again establish their own laws on abortion?” I’d love to see the numbers—because, were Roe overturned, that is what would happen

4. “In this survey, 57% identified [as “pro-choice”]versus 35%, who called themselves ‘pro-life,’ those who are generally opposed to abortion rights.” In fact, even NPR concedes Marist found the numbers exactly equal — 47% — as recently as February 2019.

This poll is, in every sense, an outlier. Pay it no mind, except to remember that you can ask questions that actually ferret out what people really believe or give you the answer you want.

Categories: Polling
Tags: abortion