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As per usual, Pew Research bungles public opinion on abortion

by | Sep 5, 2019

By Dave Andrusko

If a respected public opinion outlet makes the same tiresome and misleading representations about what Roe v. Wade legalized, you would think the only possibly explanations are (a) they are irremediably stupid, (b) deliberately misleading, or (c)indifferent. None reflect well on the Pew Research Center.

Which brings us to Pew’s latest effort released August 29. Here are the opening paragraphs

As debates over abortion continue in states around the country, a majority of Americans (61%) continue to say that abortion should be legal in all (27%) or most (34%) cases. A smaller share of the public (38%) says abortion should be illegal in all (12%) or most cases (26%).

The new survey by Pew Research Center, conducted July 22-August 4 among 4,175 adults, also finds little support for overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion. Seven-in-ten say they do not want to see the Roe v. Wade decision completely overturned; 28% say they would like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn the 1973 decision.

Where to begin with this mishmash, there is so much to choose from.

*You have to go to what Pew calls its TopLine to find the actual question.

So in asking whether the respondent wants to overturn Roe, how is Roe described?

In 1973 the Roe versus Wade decision established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy.

I thought this misnomer, this bugaboo, had finally been jettisoned. As EVERYONE knows who follows the abortion battle, Roe (and its companion case Doe v. Bolton) essentially legalized abortion on demand throughout pregnancy, which, by the way, is the position of the Democrat Party.

But not so. Pew continues to mislead the public, so no wonder in response to the question

Would you like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn its Roe versus Wade decision, or not?

They get 69% saying they would not.

*We’re also told

Overall, 42% agree with the Democratic Party’s policies on abortion either strongly (28%) or somewhat (15%). A smaller share (32%) says they strongly (21%) or somewhat (11%) agree with the policies of the GOP. About a quarter (24%) says they don’t agree with either party on this issue.

But, as Alexandra DeSanctis of National Review Online shrewdly observed

What’s more, when the new Pew poll asks respondents whether they agree more with the Democratic or the Republican party on abortion policy, it offers no specifics about what those policies are. It’s left entirely up to each respondent to define for herself, drawing on her potentially limited knowledge, what abortion policies each party favors, a factor that obviously complicates how we should understand the survey’s results.

How many people know that Democrat orthodoxy on abortion is to endorse abortion through the 40th week and be (at best) agnostic on infanticide? Does 42% of the populace support that?!

*One other important result, which comes from that opening paragraph:

As debates over abortion continue in states around the country, a majority of Americans (61%) continue to say that abortion should be legal in all (27%) or most (34%) cases. A smaller share of the public (38%) says abortion should be illegal in all (12%) or most cases (26%).

This is Pew’s preferred formulation—“all” or “most.” But this misses all the finer details and nuances of the public’s opinion on abortion, which is very different than Pew’s ham-handed description.

Less than three months ago, Gallup reported a surge in pro-life sentiment. In 2018, Gallup found that a total of 53% wanted abortion legal “only in a few circumstances” (35%) or “illegal in all circumstances” (18%).

This year, according to Lydia Saad, a total of 60% want abortion legal “only in a few circumstances” (39%) or “illegal in all circumstances” (21%)—a jump of 7 points.

While to the best of my knowledge, Gallup has never spelled out what “a few circumstances” means, it stands to reason that most people have in mind cases of rape, incest, and/or when the mother’s life is at risk. Those cases account for a tiny percentage of the roughly 926,200 abortions performed in the United States.

As always, take Pew’s abortion results with a pound of salt.

Categories: Polling
Tags: poll