Monday, June 13, 2005

William Saletan writes in his Slate column,

NARAL certainly has its back to the wall. According to the poll, only 22 percent of Americans say abortions should be "generally available." Another 26 percent say "regulation of abortion is necessary, although it should remain legal in many circumstances." That's a pro-choice total of just 48 percent, even when you phrase the second option to emphasize regulation. Thirty-nine percent say "abortion should be legal only in the most extreme cases," such as rape and incest, and 11 percent say all abortions should be illegal. That's 50 percent support for two hardcore pro-life positions. I've seen polls that offered rape/incest as the middle of three options, but I've never seen a poll that offered a fourth, moderate option ("regulation is necessary") and still showed 50 percent saying that didn't go far enough. These are grim numbers for the pro-choice folks.

Saletan misrepresents the public opinion on abortion. I haven't seen the particular poll he refers to, but generally polls on abortion do not produce "grim numbers" for the pro-choice folks. Browse the abortion page at polling report.

In the most recent polls, given three options - abortion should be always illegal, illegal except in the case of rape, incest, or the woman's life, or left to a woman and her doctor - 55% choose the "woman and her doctor" option, 2% are unsure, and the remaining 43% is split between the two pro-life options.

Alternatively, asked if they are pro-life or pro-choice, 48% say they are pro-choice and 44% are pro-life. Moroever, these numbers have stayed more or less constant over the past few years. The country is not, as Saletan claims, bearing right.

Interestingly, the data reveals that while the percentage of people who identify with any given substantive position on abortion has changed little time, the percentage that identify themselves as pro-life or pro-choice has fluctuated.


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