As some states continue to pass laws to protect the unborn, others are finding record high support for abortion, according to a recent poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal.
While the headlines about the poll show “record high approval”, they do not tell the full story. The people who responded to the poll had a limited number of options, which included:
1. Abortion should always be legal
2. Abortion should be legal most of the time
3. Abortion should be legal when rape, incest or a dangerous medical condition are present
4. Abortion should never be legal
The poll was conducted online from June 8th—11th; 1000 adults participated. Of those, 311 voted in Democrat primaries.
With the limited choices given, a majority of 34% of respondents said abortion should be legal without restriction, another 22% said it should be legal in most cases/most of the time. 29% preferred abortion only be legal when the mother’s life was endangered, or in cases of incest or rape. 12 percent of poll respondents felt abortion should be illegal at all times and in all circumstances.
After the poll, NBC interpreted the results, stating that the 34% of Americans who always supported abortion meant that support had climbed to an all time high. The number of participants who said abortion should never be legal has also climbed; this figure jumped by 5% in just the last year, according to NBC.
Not all analysts agree with NBC’s interpretation of the results, mainly because of the way the question was worded and the limited choices available. By failing to give more options or more nuanced choices, the respondents were forced to choose extreme positions on one side of the abortion line or the other.
Another recent poll was from Ipsos and had different results than the NBC version; Ipsos Public Affairs President Cliff Young explained:
“Despite the strong emotions that abortion elicits, we find that most Americans are not absolutists on the issue, understanding its many nuances,” he said.
He also stated that most people do not choose an absolute yes or no when asked about abortion, but that the conversation focuses on the potential conditions when abortion could be acceptable.
The Ipsos poll found that just 26% supported abortion in all instances; they also asked about fetal heartbeat laws. 55% of Americans support fetal heartbeat legislation, while 45% do not.
Maureen Ferguson, senior fellow for The Catholic Association also mentioned the limited choices offered in the NBC poll:
“Reports about this poll indicate that respondents were limited to a list of four broad options,” Ferguson explained. “Polls that ask about specific policies or stages in pregnancy are able to capture far more of the nuance that characterizes the average person’s views on abortion.”
Abortion continues to be a major topic of conversation and a poll subject as we move closer to the 2020 elections; expect to see more poll results as we draw closer to election day.