A new poll confirms that, contrary to the persist framing of abortion as a “polarizing” issue in the media, Americans are actually pretty united in their support of abortion rights.
Seven in ten Americans don’t think the government should enact any new laws to further restrict abortion, according to a new national poll commissioned by NARAL Pro-Choice America. The reproductive rights group is pointing to the results as evidence that politicians’ efforts to impose more restrictions on the procedure are unpopular, even among voters who may not identify as “pro-choice.”
The poll, which was conducted by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner research firm on behalf of NARAL, offered respondents more detailed options to indicate their opinions on abortion than simply asking them whether they’re “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” Respondents could choose between the following statements: “I believe having an abortion is morally acceptable and should be legal,” “I am personally against abortion for myself and my family, but I don’t believe government should prevent a woman from making that decision for herself,” or “I believe having an abortion is morally wrong and should be illegal.”
About 45 percent of respondents chose the middle category, indicating that they personally oppose abortion but don’t necessarily support enacting further restrictions on it. NARAL says that this is the sector of the population that’s typically underrepresented in polls. GQR pollster Drew Lieberman told Politico that traditional polling often forces people into “artificial categories” because “almost half the population is in the gray area” of believing abortion is morally wrong yet opposing efforts to outlaw it.
And let’s be even more clear: there is actually nothing particularly “gray” about the category of people who personally wouldn’t get an abortion but don’t want the government denying the right to others. In the vast realm of personal emotions and values, I’m sure most people’s views on abortion — just like literally any other human experience — could be called “gray,” which is just to say complex, layered, situational, potentially subject to change. The real question, from a political perspective, is where they come down on the far more black-and-white question of the law. And the majority of Americans understand that the personal beliefs of the few have no place being imposed on the beautiful grayness of our individual lives.
As ThinkProgress notes, it’s been clear for awhile that polls which only survey whether people identify as “pro-choice” or “pro-life” are not actually capturing the public’s opinions on abortion rights. And studies like this are usually fodder for yet another discussion about whether the pro-choice movement needs to reframe the issue. But, of course, plenty of reproductive justice advocates have moved beyond the “choice” framing for awhile now, and these days most mainstream pro-choice organizations have jumped on board too.
Frankly, I think the media — which loves itself a polarized issue and excels at giving credence to extremists in service of some false sense of “balance” — and the anti-choice movement — which has a clear vested interest making their ideas seem less fringe than they are — deserve the most blame for perpetuating this myth that at least half the country wants to outlaw or restrict abortion.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.