Michael J. New: Recent Polls Overstate Public Support for Roe V. Wade

Justice Kennedy’s announcement that he is retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court has dramatically raised salience of sanctity-of-life issues. Supporters of legal abortion and their allies in the mainstream media are working tirelessly to generate opposition to a constitutionalist nominee who might vote to weaken or overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. One key talking point among many abortion-rights groups is that Roe is a decision that enjoys broad public support and should be considered settled. Indeed, a flurry of polls released in recent days by NBC News/Survey MonkeyKaiser Family Foundation, and Quinnipiac University all purportedly find that over 60 percent of respondents support Roe v. Wade.

These polls are all misleading for several reasons. First, a significant number of Americans are unfamiliar with the Roe v. Wade decision. A Pew Research Center poll taken in 2013 found that only 62 percent of respondents were aware that Roe v. Wade dealt with abortion. Seventeen percent thought Roe v. Wade dealt with some other public-policy issue and 20 percent were unfamiliar with the decision. Furthermore, even many who realize Roe v. Wade dealt with abortion fail to understand the full implications of the decision. Many wrongly think that overturning Roe v. Wadewould result in national ban on abortion, instead a reversal of Roe would return the issue to the states.

Additionally, many polling questions, including the recent questions by NBC News/Survey Monkey, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Quinnipiac University all fail to inform respondents that Roe v. Wade effectively legalized abortion on demand for all nine months of pregnancy and makes it difficult to place limits on late-term abortions. Historically, there has been very little public support for second-trimester or third-trimester abortions. For instance, a Gallup poll that was released this June found that only 28 percent of people thought second-trimester abortions should be legal and only 13 percent thought third-trimester abortions should be legal.

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Source: National Review

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