Interpreting Polls on Abortion

Steve Benen is skeptical of a Gallup poll which contradicts other polls showing more Americans are “pro-life” than “pro-choice.”

I suspect, though, that polls like this are asking the wrong questions. These are the questions that seem to have the most policy salience in the debate:

* Some lawmakers and activists would like to see a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortions in the United States. Do you support or oppose such an amendment?

* The Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that women have a right to an abortion. Do you think the Supreme Court should overturn Roe?

It’s interesting to know how many Americans consider themselves “pro-choice” and “pro-life,” but there are plenty of folks for whom these labels are ambiguous. Some, for example, might say they’re “pro-life,” but don’t want to see the government mandate their beliefs on everyone else. I’m more interested in the two questions I pose, because they’re more likely to have a political effect.

Steve might be right that using these buzz words is a poor way to measure public opinion on the subject. Besides his questions, I have some additional ones:

Do you believe a woman should face criminal charges for terminating a pregnancy in the first trimester?

Do you believe a doctor should face criminal charges for performing abortions which are currently legal?

Do you want to return to the days of shirt hanger abortions?

Nate Silver and Dana Goldstein also looked at this issue and question the poll results. Regardless of the poll results there is considerable evidence that the trend is towards greater liberty on social issues, although it is certainly a possibility that there is a temporary back slide. Progress doesn’t come in straight lines.

Posted in Polls, Social Issues. Tags: , . 4 Comments »

Political Insiders Agree Cheney Is Hurting GOP

It hardly comes as a surprise, but Dick Cheney’s recent public remarks are not helping the Republican Party. This is seen in this week’s National Journal Political Insiders Poll:

Q: Has Dick Cheney helped or hurt the Republican Party since leaving office?

Democrats (103 votes)

Helped             6 percent
Hurt              92 percent
Both; neither;
  time will tell
  (volunteered)    3 percent

Q: Has Dick Cheney helped or hurt the Republican Party since leaving office?

Republicans (100 votes)

Helped          33 percent
Hurt            57 percent
No effect
  (volunteered)  5 percent
  don't know
  (volunteered)  5 percent

Comments from Democrats and Republicans sounded very similar. Here are some of the comments from Republicans:

“He seems determined to vindicate his decisions and policies even if it damages the GOP’s recovery. And it has.”

“Anything that reminds the public of the Bush administration harms the party’s ability to turn the page. If he’d had any concern for his public image when he was in office, he wouldn’t have to worry as much about defending his reputation now.”

“There is nothing Dick Cheney can say or do to help the Republican Party today. The best thing he can do is disappear for the next 10 years.”

“Not even a close call. With Cheney out there, Obama doesn’t even need to remind the American people about the mess that was the Bush years.”

“He’s advocating for what’s left of the party. We need to expand the party.”

“Cheney represents the grumpy intolerance that has come to characterize the GOP. Get off the stage!”