Abortion is a polarizing issue; Democrats want it to be legal and taxpayer-funded, while Republicans want it outright banned. Thus, as with every other major political issue, polls have been conducted to see if the American People agree with the former or the latter.
Many of these polls, however, are extremely misleading, as they either allow people to choose their own label or don’t properly explain what the options are.
Before I dive deep into this, fill out this short survey on Google Forms! Are my readers pro-life or pro-choice, and what are y’all’s actual positions on abortion? I’ll post the results sometime in the future.
Most Abortion Polls are Misleading
Gallup says that 49% of Americans consider themselves to be pro-choice, which is two points higher than the 47% that say they’re pro-life. One by Pew shows that 59% want abortion to be legal in all or most circumstances and only 39% want it to be illegal in all or most circumstances.
This might make it seem like most Americans agree with the Democrats on this issue, but these polls are misleading. The Gallup poll lets people choose their own label, while the Pew poll doesn’t objectively define “most circumstances.”
Someone who believes abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother might choose “pro-choice” or “legal in all or most circumstances,” even though they’re objectively pro-life.
A Marist poll supports my hypothesis, with 19% of Americans identifying as “pro-choice” taking that position, or even a more restrictive one. Similarly, 13% of Americans who chose “pro-life” could be objectively described as pro-choice.
Furthermore, Gallup also says that 58% of Americans don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade, yet the same amount support banning abortions once a heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks in. That would violate Roe v. Wade, which sets a minimum of three months.
The reason for this vast discrepancy is simple: people don’t know what Roe v. Wade does, and the pollsters didn’t even try to inform people.
Most Americans are Pro-Life (Probably)
Another Gallup poll shows that only 32% of Americans want abortion to be legal in all circumstances, which is the Democratic position. The Marist poll from earlier shows that half of Americans have views contrary to Roe v. Wade. An additional 26% only believe it should be legal during the first three months, which doesn’t violate Roe v. Wade but is still half of what the Democrats advocate for.
Depending on how you define it, this means most Americans are probably pro-life. If you define it as being against the Democratic position: the vast majority of Americans, 76%, are pro-life. If you define it as being against Roe v. Wade: it’s somewhere around 58%. If you define it based on allowable circumstances: it’s roughly half.
I personally support the second option, with the third only representing hardline pro-lifers (which, to be fair, includes myself), and the first including a lot of moderate pro-choicers.
Polls that let respondents pick their own label tend to be inaccurate, especially those with poorly defined boundaries. They also tend to be inaccurate if they don’t explain what the options mean, because not everyone knows.
Even if the poll is from a reputable source, take the time to understand the questions they’re asking before taking the results as gospel. Not all polls have this problem, but you should always be critical — even if you agree with them. No one benefits from lying to themselves.
“Abortion”. Gallup, https://news.gallup.com/poll/1576/abortion.aspx.
Hannah Hartig. “About six-in-ten Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases”. Pew Research Center, 6 May, 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/05/06/about-six-in-ten-americans-say-abortion-should-be-legal-in-all-or-most-cases/.
Lydia Saad. “Americans Still Oppose Overturning Roe v. Wade“. Gallup, 9 Jun. 2021, https://news.gallup.com/poll/350804/americans-opposed-overturning-roe-wade.aspx.