Misleading and Uniformative: Some Thoughts on a Recent Abortion Poll

012913I like many of you heard of a recent Pew Research Center survey on Abortion (released just before the March for Life) that presents discouraging results. The very title of their release was trumpeted by secular Media: Most Oppose Overturning Abortion Decision. That was the lead and really the only thing the secular media wanted to hear.

The actual Pew report is a lot more difficult to read and the results are hard to compare with other surveys since the wording of the questions is never held constant. For example, the exclusion of rape/incest clauses makes for different results. Like it or not most Americans are more sanguine about abortions in cases of rape and incest (rare though such cases are). Whether respondents are given such distinctions makes a difference, as do other factors. For example, many if not most Americans favor any number of restrictions on Abortion short of a total ban and, depending on how the questions are asked, the restrictions they favor come close to a general exclusion of Abortion as a legal option. Thus there are many subtleties in the context and wording of questions.

You can see the full Pew Report here: Roe v. Wade at 40 Frankly the report is bewildering to my eyes, pointing in many different directions and broken into so many categories. It is hard to draw any real conclusions at least to my amateur statistician eyes.

Ramesh Ponnuru writing in National review on-line has some of the following observations of the Pew Report that also help place the survey in context and which raise the problem of leading questions flawed premises that plague such surveys. His remarks are in bold black italics, my comments are plain red text. His full article is Here: How Not to Read Abortion Polls

Actually, Pew did not find that support for Roe has been increasing. It found less support for Roe than it did in 2005, which appears to be the last time it asked the question. The ABC/Washington Post poll also found declining support for Roe between 2005 and 2010.

But of course the lead headlines all suggest that support for legal abortion was growing, not declining. The impression on radio and TV news was that over 70% Americans want Roe to stay just as it is.

But the fact is that Roe and subsequent rulings that brought us Abortion on mere demand for all nine months of pregnancy has been steadily eroding as an unabridged legal right. This is because Americans, at many state levels, are insisting on and getting increasing restrictions both on the abortion industry, and the right to unrestricted abortion for all nine months.

Americans do not in practice provide unqualified support for Roe and abortion on demand away from the poll takers survey. Late term abortion are far more repugnant to Americans, as are abortions for crass reasons such as sex-selection. There are many things that will influence how a person answers the survey.

Other polling does not find any leftward shift. The University of Michigan’s polling finds no clear change from 1990 through 2008. The CBS/New York Times poll shows no movement between 2003 and 2012. Gallup shows no clear change in either direction from 2002 to 2012. (It also finds no pro-choice majority: In May of 2012, 59 percent of respondents told Gallup abortion should be legal in a few circumstances or illegal in all circumstances, while 38 percent said it should be legal in “all” or “most” circumstances.) Harris’s numbers show a movement in the pro-life direction from 1993 to 2009 on the question of under what circumstances abortion should be legal.

And here is a key point that makes surveys hard to read. Some surveys ask the question of support for Roe in an all or nothing, up or down fashion. Other surveys introduce circumstances. And it would appear that the circumstances make a lot of difference.

And when poll takers do not add any circumstances or qualifiers to the question it is less clear what qualifiers the respondents read into the question. For example, if a person is asked to vote up or down on Roe it is important to know if they think Roe allows abortion only in the first three months or if they know that Roe permits abortion right up to the last moment in the womb. Far fewer Americans support abortion in month 8 than in week 4. Further, far fewer Americans support abortion for sex-selection than due to the health of the mother.

Simply reporting that a percentage of Americans support or don’t support Roe is not really very informative.

Pollsters [often] include misinformation in their questions about Roe, as both the Pew and NBC/WSJ polls do. They suggest falsely that Roe limits the abortion license to the first three months of pregnancy. (The combined effect of Roe and its companion case Doe v. Bolton is to make abortion legal at any stage of pregnancy.) The latter poll even uses the phrase “completely overturn” in its question, a qualifier that can be expected to lower support for the option….what the Roe polls are probably picking up is that a strong majority of the public does not favor a ban on all first-trimester abortions.

Exactly, and while we may wish that Americans rejected abortion under ALL circumstances, we may have to be content to change hearts incrementally in this matter. It is at the outer edges that the pro-life progress is most evident. For, as noted above there is a steady string of legislative and legal victories at state levels that have sought to limit abortions. Gradually Americans are more comfortable that access to abortion at any stage for any reason should not be unrestricted. This may then lay the groundwork for further progress in a total change of heart and rejection of abortion at all stages for more and more Americans.

Maybe it will turn out that the public is becoming more supportive of abortion. I’d wait to see more evidence before calling that trend, which may not exist at all, “clear.

Yes, it seems clear that the media rush to publicize the Pew results simplistically was likely more illustrative of their own views than of what this limited result actually shows. Shame on Pew as well for their leading headline which probably was aimed more at publicity than careful analysis.

More the complexity of this issue was discussed a year and half ago on this blog when a Gallup Poll released then said that 61% of Americans want all, or most abortions, to be declared illegal. Even there, the nature of the questions had to be carefully factored in. You can read more of my blog from then Here: Americans Want most Abortion to be Illegal.

Fair is fair. We continue to have a battle on our hands, be I still contend that we are steadily eroding support for abortion at the edges and more Americans want more restrictions. We are heading in the right direction. Further embryology and medical science in general are on our side. Increasingly, with 3-D sonograms and the like the reality of life in the womb is evident to all but the most hardened.

Onward fellow pro-lifers. Time + evidence favor our cause. Do not be discouraged by misleading reports and undistinguished data.

For those of us in pro-life work there are important precedents to be seen in the fight against slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and even in the anti-smoking campaign. Consistent, persistent and organized action brings eventual results. This is often a battle for inches, but inches become yards, and yards, miles. Keep a inching alone like a poor old inch worm, Jesus will come by and by.

20 Replies to “Misleading and Uniformative: Some Thoughts on a Recent Abortion Poll”

  1. During the presidential campaign the media repeatedly used polls to build up the president and to undercut Romney. Things haven’t changed. The media does not use polls to inform, but frequently to propagandize their point of view. They word some polls to get results that support their point of view and slant the reporting on the polls to further support their position.
    Many people do not realize the incestuous relationship that exists between a lot of so-called “independent” polling outfits, pro-abortion activist groups, and the giant media conglomerates .The pro-life movement is truly in a struggle with one of the great and evil Leviathans of history.

    1. God bless you, Deacon. And yes, you state the obvious bias in the media and their agenda. From my perspective, my epiphany came about from the gay “marriage” issue that the media decided was its new darling. It jettison the black versus white issue for a while and embraced wholeheartedly the gay struggle. Te media rationalized gay activists threats, slander and aggression towards religious groups and institutions that showed data that kids of gay parents were at risk, etc. it ignored and downplayed these facts as mere opinions..if it stated them at all. While simultaneously portraying anyone who disagreed. Intellectual or not, as extremists. By merely having another opinion, the media portrayed me as committing violent hate crimes against homosexuals who were portrayed as sweet innocent children just trying to slog their way uphill for the good of our world. The fact I think otherwise should be outlawed.

  2. Far from having a “sanguine” view of murder by decree (Roe v. Wade in the sphere of reality), I believe that there’s a situation extant in these United States where a majority of people are in a self-inflicted state of demonic confusion. They have almost lost the ability to reason, pressured into a milieu where through peer group pressures, all too many seem to be active in their sordid little routines by sheer rote of aways seeing the glass “half full,” So falsecompassion would appear to be the modus operandi for way too many, while people like Andrew Cuomo compose a FEROCIOUS juggernaut of said false compassion, in their exalted positions, curdling into a rationale of naked utilitarianism that drives them into justifying more and more genocide in the name of “women’s rights.” And the City of New York is the center of this leviathan that coldly and efficiently dispatches these defenseless little babes, tearing them limb from limb while the chorus of rationalists and harpies icessantly scream “it’s only tissue, just clumps of cells;” where o where will it all end? If he’s not stopped by impeachment, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what four more years of Hussein Obama will bring: more dead babies. God help us all, MARKRITE

  3. This is so discouraging, but it comes as no surprise. The main stream media cannot be trusted. Instead of being truthful, instead of promoting all that is good, it has degenerated into a vehicle for forcing a satanic agenda on the American people. The power behind today’s media is demonic – pure and simple.

    In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he reminds God’s people that in the last days, there will be a falling away from the Church. Then the man of sin (the Antichrist) will be revealed, who will exalt himself above God. He also states that God will send a “strong delusion” – that many should believe the lie. This passage reminds me of the media, because through it people fall into gross idolatry. Plus, they gradually begin to believe all the lies that come to them on an hourly basis through their idols’ mouths – one of those lies being “the right to choose” whether a baby lives! Another lie: it’s not a baby, it’s a group of cells. How can people be so blind?

  4. The main questions to ask are (i) if you are pro-life what would it take for you to make repeal of Roe v Wade a major political issue? and (ii) if not, why not?

  5. I really wish it were otherwise, but it is every day more evident that most people do not think consistently about, well, much of anything. Call it cognitive dissonance, call it confusion, call it intellectual laziness — one way or another, people carry around a tangle of radically incompatible beliefs, which makes them susceptible to being snookered by demagogues.

    1. Bingo. How can we not think about what we are thinking about? Some of the leaps in logic just make my brain feel like exploding. I am not perfect obviously but I do try and aim for internal consistency.

  6. Donna, did you ever nail it! And many yeas ago, Ven. Fulton Sheen prophesied that we were THEN beginning to move into the age of antichrist (I WON’T capitalize his wicked name), and that was approximately forty years ago.,while he was head of, I believe, the Propagation of the Faith. Now, is Obama THE antichrist, or possibly just ANOTHER antichrist ? I don’t know, does anyone? Well, possibly Cdl. James Francis Stafford; he hints at the possibility that Obama is AN antichrist, and he did so around 2007 when the good Cardinal wrote about the then up-and-coming candidate Obama. He said, and I paraphrase, that Obama was “apocalyptic and divisive,” and that after his election to the presidency there would be “hot tears” of regret by many of the electorate. Have we not seen that situation come to pass? Weren’t there many who had severe “buyer’s remorse” upon the EXPERIENCE of living under Obama’s accession to the presidency? And yet, even after the “shellacking” that the Democratic party took upon the elections of 2010, the “people” returned him to the highest office in the land! Sheer madness, putting this person BACK where he had done so much damage to us as a nation, so he could do MORE DAMAGE *!? Either Obama and the Democrats STOLE the election in ’12, or the American electorate REALLY IS in a state of demonic confusion, as I referred to in a post yesterday. Now what’s been sown, especially since the Roe V. Wade decision, more than 60,000,000 innocent babes murdered in their mother’s womb, we’re seeing with our own eyes the REAPING of the proverbial whirwind, possibly the END of our American civilization. But there’s hope; attend daily Mass, if you can, say the Rosary fervently daily, AND get behind the growing movement to IMPEACH Obama, and make sure the U.S. Senate follows through this time, and CONVICT him, then REMOVE him from the presidency, unlike with Clinton, who was bad enough, but NEVER as bad as Obama! May the Holy and Blessed Virgin Mary, co-redemptrix of the human race, PRAY FOR US. GOD BLESS ALL, MARKRITE

    1. There are criteria set forth by Scripture that have to be fulfilled before the unmasking of the Antichrist that remain unfulfilled, and there are credible private revelations that also seem to require a period of decades or even centuries must first pass. THE BOOK OF DESTINY by Fr Herman Bernard Kramer is not without flaws (such as overestimating the power of Communism), but it does a good job of establishing these points.

      Unless [insert troubling public person here] rebuilds the Temple in Jerusalem, he is not *the* Antichrist.

    2. Thanks, Mark! When I read your first remark (written at about the same time as mine) I remarked to myself that we were thinking pretty much the same thing. I am not pointing to Obama as THE Antichrist, but my husband and I often say that his presidency gives us a taste of how things will be. The masses will adore him, refer to him as the Messiah, and overlook the obvious evil. He will be treacherous and an enemy of the Church, an enemy of all that is good. And I don’t pretend to know how the False Prophet will be manifested, but this is were I think our present day main-stream-media comes in. It is a mouthpiece, a messanger for the antichrist, deceiving and twisting and propagandizing to promote antichrist’s wicked agenda.

      Anyway, I’m no expert in Bible prophecy, but I watch and pray as faithful disciples do. It seems to me that when I was growing up, every now and then I would meet an individual that I would consider “irrational”. Now I find that I’m surrounded by them – they’re everywhere! I can’t turn on the news for 5 minutes without wondering how people can think the things they do. Good is called bad, bad is called good. We’re here.

  7. Howard, I don’t know if you’re responding to my post or not, but when I referred to Obama, I very clearly indicated that no-one can be sure if he’s THE antichrist, or another antichrist wannabee. So please understand that obviously Tthe jury’s still out, but he SURELY parallels some of the actions taken by Hitler, for instance, who was thought in some quarters to be THE antichrist; how about Obama’s INTENSE antipathy towards preborn humans, for instance? Is that not demonic? He would apparently abort his OWN GRANDCHILD, if he could have his way, as he indicated in statements he made before his first term. Google it on the internet if you doubt what I’m writing. Just saying.GOD BLESS ALL, MARKRITE

    1. No, I think we can be pretty sure he is NOT *the* Antichrist. He is, I’m sad to say, a bad man, but he’s by no means unique in that. He doesn’t have the power, he doesn’t have the charisma, he doesn’t have the appearance of holiness, and he doesn’t have the string of successes that the Antichrist will.

      Really, read up on Julian the Apostate. He was a more credible candidate for Antichrist, and he DID in fact try to rebuild the Temple — in part because he knew Christians believed (correctly) he would be unable to. Julian was something like Obama, Al Gore, and Fidel Castro rolled into one, but he didn’t fit the bill. If I remember right, one of the objections raised by St. Cyril of Jerusalem was that the prophecies of Jerusalem’s destruction had not yet been completely fulfilled, because some stones from Jesus’ time still lay atop each other as before. If this argument is valid, the fact that the Wailing Wall is still standing means that it is not yet the time of the Antichrist.

      Another good candidate, even earlier, would have been Simon bar Kokhba, Jewish leader during the Second Jewish War. He was in power for pretty much “time, times, and half a time”, as the phrase is commonly understood, and he was hailed as the Messiah — seriously and literally, not as some over-the-top rhetoric in poor taste — by some contemporary rabbis.

      Until someone comes along who combines all that was powerful, “civilized”, and terrible in bar Kokhba, Julian, and Nero all in the same package, someone who can woo the whole world like Hitler did the Germans (no, Obama’s not really that popular inside or outside the US), but with NOBODY talking about him being the Antichrist (like happens on the Internet with every American president), the Man of Sin has not yet come.

  8. Howard, once again, you keep referring to Obama as if someone here said he WAS the antichrist; no-one has. But some of us, Donna apparently being another one, believe that if he’s not AN antichrist “type,” or, in my case, another for instance, that Stalin or Mao-tse-tung were not “types” of the antichrist, I can’t imagine who that could be. And I DO have a copy of Fr. P. Huchede’s “History of antichrist,” which you seem to have as well, and Fr. Kramer’s book, which I have read through too,, so II’m well aware of the phenomena that will surround antichrist’s coming. But obviously the various “types” of a.c. can do immense damage, physical and spiritual, and they all may be steppingstones, as it were, to the “real thing.” Certainly the genocidal wickedness that inhabits the U.S. presidency through the inhabitor Obama should be exteremely troubling to all Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, etc., and, once again I believe it to be INCUMBENT upon all people of whatever faith to throw this cretin out of office through impeachment. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, for me, if I didn’t do everything that I could to GET OBAMA REMOVED from the HIGHEST OFFICE in our land, I’d be remiss, possibly to the point of mortal sin. For after all, in case you or all the others who read this blog hadn’t heard, Bp. Micheal Sheridan of Colorado Springs Colorado, told his priests during the elections last fall to PUBLICLY SPEAK AGAINST OBAMA FROM THE PULPIT! And It could be that Obama has in mind for us Catholics in the U.S. to parallel THE FATE OF THE JEWS UNDER HITLER, OR EVEN THE CHRISTIANS UNDER STALIN, FOR THAT MATTER. And in the case of Stalin, have we forgotten that as a young man, he studied to be a Russian Orthodox priest? The same man, who through his machinations as Communist dictator of Russia, DELIBERATELY STARVED TO DEATH the 16,000,000 farmers known as “Kulaks?” Now It’s not for nothing that Obama singled out the Roman Catholic church for persecution under his so-called “mandate,” and NOT the Jews, Muslims, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, etc. I BELIEVE HE HAS AN EXTREME ANIMUS AGAINST THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, despite all his hyperbole and dissimulating to the contrary. Paraphrasing St. Augustine, we all need to WORK as if victory in this matter were all up to us, and PRAY as if it were all up to God. Holy Mary, Mother of Divinity, PRAY FOR US. GOD BLESS ALL, MARKRITE

    1. 1 John 2:18: Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that Antichrist cometh, even now there are become many Antichrists: whereby we know that it is the last hour.

      Mark and Howard – we agree there have been antichrists since the beginning, and there are antichrists in the world even today, such as Ahmadinejad, who hates Christians and Jews and is close to having nuclear weapons! I pray for that poor Pastor Abedini who has been thrown in jail simply because he is a Christian! I definitely see Obama as a type who is paving the way for the final one. And I see the media as the major tool used by the Enemy to brainwash the masses into giving Obama and others like him the support he /they need to obtain power. The media has managed to convince 1/2 of American Catholics to reelect him, even though he so openly opposes the Catholic Church. This is mind-boggling!

    2. “Howard, once again, you keep referring to Obama as if someone here said he WAS the antichrist; no-one has.” Well, *someone* has said, “Now, is Obama THE antichrist, or possibly just ANOTHER antichrist ? I don’t know, does anyone?” and later, “I very clearly indicated that no-one can be sure if he’s THE antichrist, or another antichrist wannabee.” So when I write, “No, I think we can be pretty sure he is NOT *the* Antichrist,” I am in fact directly contradicting those claims. We DO know more than nothing, and we DO know more about this than Tim Lahaye — if, at least, we are being serious. So stop with this “He may actually be the Antichrist! But no one has said he is the Antichrist!” nonsense.

      LEAVE THE ANTICHRIST OUT OF THIS DISCUSSION ALTOGETHER. A good Catholic does not need such talk to be persuaded to pray that a sinner repent or that his country turn back from disaster, so mention of the Antichrist is not necessary. On the other hand, to an outsider this just sounds bonkers, so it is counterproductive. Maybe this is why you never hear the Pope ranting that way about world leaders.

      1. Howard, no offence, but you are way off here. How do you know “good Catholics” don’t need such talk? How do you know that such discussions don’t rouse Catholics to pray more and evangelize more? It seems to me that many devout Catholics that I know DO talk about the Antichrist, because they are extremely concerned about the chaotic, violent times we are living in.

        And how do you know that such talk won’t spur “an outsider” to investigate our faith? There are many “outsiders” who are also troubled by what they see and are looking for answers, and perhaps Bible prophecy will open thier eyes. Who knows?

        The Apostles Paul and John were “good Catholics” and they addressed the issue in their letters, because their disciples had been wondering. They didn’t warn them that they should not talk about such things.

        No one is ranting here. This is a wonderful place to come together to share reflections with other – what I consider – “mature Catholics”…. we should welcome each others thoughts and address each other with love and respect.

        1. “How do you know “good Catholics” don’t need such talk? How do you know that such discussions don’t rouse Catholics to pray more and evangelize more?”

          I would say that BY DEFINITION anyone who will not pray or evangelize unless they think Obama is the Antichrist is not a good Catholic. A good Catholic is going to pray and evangelize in all seasons. Add to that, the Catholic Church is founded on truth, indeed on Truth. If you’re saying that, “Well, a little falsehood might make them better Catholics,” you’re really helping the Other Team.

          But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’
          * He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
          Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’

          “And how do you know that such talk won’t spur ‘an outsider’ to investigate our faith?” Maybe because I was an outsider? It wasn’t the batty people who think they see the Blessed Virgin in a piece of toast who brought me over, it was St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas and a greater appreciation of both what the Church actually teaches and of history. But there’s also the fact that I live and work around a lot of “outsiders”. If you start saying, “Maybe Obama is the Antichrist!” some of them will be polite and some of them might be mildly curious — about the same fraction who would be polite or mildly curious if you were to say, “Maybe Obama is a space alien!” “Maybe Obama is a vampire!” or “Maybe Obama is a robot!” Such ideas may be odd and entertaining, but they are not really attractive; besides which, there are lots of other religions out there for people who just want something weird with no rigor and no support.

      2. “There is no need to be afraid to call the first agent of evil by his name: the Evil One. The strategy which he used and continues to use is that of not revealing himself, so that the evil implanted by him from the beginning may receive its development from man himself, from systems and from relationships between individuals, from classes and nations—so as also to become ever more a “structural” sin, ever less identifiable as “personal” sin. In other words, so that man may feel in a certain sense “freed” from sin but at the same time be ever more deeply immersed in it.” —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter, Dilecti Amici, To The Youth of the World, n. 15

  9. Howard, you are the one who made the statement, “good Catholics don’t need such talk”; I’m simply saying that maybe some Catholics DO benefit from such talk. By saying such a thing, you insult all the truly good Catholics who do discuss the issue. And what about all the lukewarm Catholics? Do you think about them? Do they count for anything? And I never said anything about worries over the antichrist being the sole reason for someone to begin praying or evangelizing. You said that.

    I’m finished with this discussion. You make too many all-or-nothing statements, even though Mark nor I made any. If you’re worried about what outsiders think about you, don’t ever mention “hell” or “the devil” or the “rosary”. They may laugh at you!! If Jesus, the Apostle Paul, the Apostle John, Fulton Sheen, Henry Cardinal Newman, St. Augustine discussed the antichrist, they did it for a reason: it was to prepare the faithful for the great deception.

    And one last question for you to think about: why do you, Howard, read books on Bible prophecy and the antichrist? What is all that reading for? To settle your own curiosity, and then criticize others for theirs? or to learn and pass that learning on to others?

    Anyway, God bless you Howard. It’s been an interesting discussion!

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