Hint: Voters on both sides of the abortion issue are A LOT closer than you just might think.
TOPLINES ON ABORTION (Also, what's a "Topline?")
Well, toplines are basically polling or policy cliff notes. In other words, the basic understandable data that describes the rest of the data. And the "toplines" on most every abortion poll showed the same thing.
Today, a 61% majority of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. - Pew Research 6-13-22
End of story right? Abortion is a winning issue by over 20 points, Democrats have the advantage and Republicans are stuck in the stone age. I mean, that's the story Democrats painted, successfully I might add, in the 2022 midterms.
As Lee Corso might say, "Not so Fast my friend......"
A few sentences down in the Pew Research summary are some more nuggets that mostly tell us what we kinda already know, which is that Republicans, the Party of No, are generally AGAINST abortion while Democrats are FOR it. But what is it that they are FOR or AGAINST exactly?
There are ideological differences within both parties over abortion, though the divide is starker within the GOP. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 60% of moderates and liberals say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with just 27% of conservative Republicans.
While liberal Democrats are 18 percentage points more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, wide majorities of both groups (90% and 72%, respectively) say this.
Catch that phrase I underlined twice, "All or Most Cases?" Yeah, that's an important piece of the abortion story we need to take a deeper dive into in order to find my long running hypothesis that these two parties agree more than they don't.
ALL or MOST?
This is why it's so important that we never take surveys at face value only. It's always important to see how the question was actually worded. This is also where parties, campaigns, and every marketing company in America can get clever. Some examples....
Democrats have successfully turned abortion into a more general term. It's now "Women's Reproductive Rights" and a much broader issue than abortion itself.
When it comes to gender and identity issues, progressive campaigns have successfully attached this term to issues like marriage and sports and in places like schools and businesses.
My favorite example. If I ask anyone in America, "Are you for higher taxes?" the answer is "of course not." Yet if I ask "Do you support school funding?" the answer will be "of course" without the not.
Generic terms like these have helped Democrats win a lot of races and political fights because Republicans have allowed them to successfully rebrand issues time and time again. No wonder Republicans are portrayed as such hate mongers!
The "ALL" Crowd
Getting back to the Pew survey, we see that voters were actually given four options, "Legal in All, Legal in Most, Illegal in Most, or Illegal in All."
Anyone else notice how the only options on both sides involve "most" or "all?" Where's the "some?" So we should probably dive into that "most" crowd and see what they actually think, but before, let's look at the "all" crowd first as they sound pretty definitive.
According to Pew, the number of those who stated "all" was 25%. See that? Only a quarter of respondents think abortion should be Legal in ALL circumstances. Why is that relevant? Because it seems to suggest that a whopping 75% of voters seem to support some type of restriction on abortions. But I'm pretty sure you've never seen that in a headline before, have you?
But it gets even more interesting, Pew dug deeper and asked those 25% the following question:
"Just to confirm, are there any exceptions when you think abortion should be legal, or do you think abortion should be against the law no matter what the reason and at all points in a woman’s pregnancy?"
When they asked that additional question the number of voters supporting abortion in "all circumstances" dropped from 25% down to 19%. So now we've gone from 61% to 25% all the way down to 19%.
Yeah folks, turns out that only 19% of voters feel that abortion should be allowed in "all circumstances."
While 19% of you have dug in on "all circumstances" the rest of us 81% aren't busy debating abortion "rights" so much as we are just debating what "circumstances" mean.
So, let me say it one last time here, America is not 61% in favor of abortion because......
81% of Americans SUPPORT some form of abortion RESTRICTIONS!
The "MOST" Crowd
Now it's time to find out what Americans are actually debating. On page 2 of the Pew Survey, they break down how people felt.
19% Legal in all cases, no exceptions
42% Legal, some exceptions
29% Illegal, some exceptions
8% Illegal in all cases, no exceptions
Remember earlier when I complained about using the term "most" but not "some?" This is why. See how differently things look when that term is introduced? This is why you don't just read toplines folks, you gotta dig deeper to get the real answers.
As we see above, there's that 19% on the "All" side, but we also see another 8% on the other end of the spectrum who feel abortion should be Illegal in ALL cases, NO exceptions. Basically what this tells us is that 27% of America has dug in on their official abortion position and there's no middle ground.
But what about the other 73%????
Well, they are debating one of two things. Either the "circumstance" or "how long the woman has been pregnant."
The Circumstances Crowd
This is not something new, it's been asked in debates for a long, long time. The circumstantial debate is over exceptions for, "rape, incest, or life of the child" which, by the way, are also exceptions a good number of Republicans agree with these days. Here is how Pew broke that down.
"Do you think abortion should be legal or illegal in each of the following situations? "
a. The pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health 54% Legal
b. The pregnancy is the result of rape 50% Legal
c. The baby is likely to be born with severe disabilities or health problems 34% Legal
When we take (a) and (b) and combine that with that whole 19% "All" crowd and you have basically 3/4 of Americans saying that they support abortion circumstantially. See, yet again America agrees on something!
The Amount of Time Crowd
Time is the obvious other objection. State laws vary on "when" abortion is outlawed. There are actually only 11 states who have outlawed abortion completely. The other 39 have legal abortion in one form or another, and are unlikely to ever be able to ban it completely. Those states do vary on the amount of time question, which varies. So yet again, it's worth diving into the other question Pew asked
"Do you think how long a woman has been pregnant should matter in determining whether it is legal or illegal to have an abortion? "
19% Legal in all cases, no exceptions
56% Yes, how long a woman has been pregnant should matter
14% No, how long a woman has been pregnant should not matter
8% Illegal in all cases, no exceptions
So we can see here that the conditional crowd and the amount of time crowd are a relatively similar block. Here, it's a 71% number of voters debating WHEN an abortion should be legal.
Pew gave this block three options, 6 weeks, 14 weeks, and 24 weeks. Here is where they stood.
0 Weeks: 19% of voters
6 Weeks: 44% of voters (includes 19% the zero week crowd)
14 Weeks: 34% of voters (10% drop off)
24 Weeks: 22% of voters (half the 6 week number and only 3% more than the zero crowd)
Wow. See that? Only 22% of voters said they thought abortion should be legal after 24 weeks? So that means.....
More than 3/4 of Voters (78%) in America say abortion should be IL-Legal after 24 weeks!
Again, you won't see that headline atop any news stories coming soon will you?
So Where do Voters Agree on Abortion?
In case I lost you with too much math, here are the cliff notes for the test you're not going to have.....
More than 70% of Voters AGREE that:
Abortion should be LEGAL if the life of the mother is at stake or if the pregnancy was a result of rape.
Abortion should IL-LEGAL once the pregnancy reaches 24 weeks.
More Simply Put:
More than 70% of voters AGREE that there should be RESTRICTIONS AND EXCEPTIONS on Abortion.
See, America agrees more than they disagree on the issue of abortion.
Oh, and by the way, there are only 7 total states without restrictions on abortion and 11 where it's outlawed completely. So yet again, the majority of states would seem to line up with voters actual views on abortion.
One Final Note:
Pew has been tracking the abortion issue since 1995. Want to know the results of their survey from 1995? ALMOST IDENTICAL!
In other words?
It sure seems like people feel the exact same way in 2022 as they did in 1995.
So why was it such a hot button issue in 2022? An answer to that question coming soon to a post near you......