Marist Poll: Large Majorities Support Abortion Restrictions

Guy Benson
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Posted: Jan 23, 2017 3:00 PM
Marist Poll: Large Majorities Support Abortion Restrictions

new national survey conducted by Marist College's pollster -- which regularly partners with NBC News and the Wall Street Journal -- finds that heavy majorities of Americans believe abortion is morally wrong, and favor an array of mainstream restrictions on the practice. Abortion supporters habitually seek to cast pro-life sentiment as "extreme" and limited to a loud, anti-women minority of voters, but the data betrays that framing as cynical and wishful partisan spin. In reality, many pro-life positions aren't merely solidly mainstream, but actually widely-supported, including among majorities of American women. Based on Townhall's look at the poll's crosstabs, here are a few of the survey's findings:

(1) A commanding 83 percent of American adults oppose US tax dollars being spent to facilitate abortions overseas, representing a strong endorsement of President Trump's laudable re-institution of the so-called Mexico City policy. A supermajority (61 percent) oppose tax dollars financing abortions in the US, with just 35 percent in support.  This includes 61 percent of women.

(2) A slim majority of Americans identify as "pro choice" on the abortion question, but a 52 percent majority is at least in favor of limiting legal abortion to very rare cases such as rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother, which covers the pro-life spectrum (these answers were selected by 52 percent of women). An additional 22 percent say abortion should be illegal after the first trimester of pregnancy, leaving only about one-fourth of respondents to embrace the Democrats' radically permissive stance on the issue. Among those backing significant restrictions on abortion are nearly 80 percent of African Americans and Latinos.

(3) On the moral question, roughly six in ten Americans say abortion is morally wrong, compared to less than 40 percent who say it's morally acceptable. A majority believes the practice ultimately does "more harm than good" for women, while less than one-third say it "improves a woman's life."  There was no gender gap on either question.

(4) A lopsided 78 percent of American adults conclude that laws can protect both pregnant mothers and their unborn children, a recognition of the humanity of both parties. By a 24-point margin, respondents support barring abortions after 20 weeks (in the sixth month and beyond), and a similar majority says that medical professionals who oppose abortion should not be forced to provide those services.  The poll's internals show that women are just as likely to hold these views as men.

I've emphasized the data points reflecting women's views as a counterpoint to the Left's incessant conflation of abortion and "women's rights."  The poll was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, drew results from a large pool of more than 2,700 American adults, and has a margin of error of less than two percentage points. It was conducted in English and Spanish, with the data gathered last month.  National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru wrote a thoughtful and nuanced piece about the complexities and contradictions of public opinion on abortion a few weeks ago, noting that clear majorities are opposed to the idea of the Supreme Court "completely overturning" the Roe v. Wade decision.  He speculates that a lot of people do not understand the true implications of such an act, perhaps with many wrongly assuming that the end of Roe would result in a blanket, nationwide ban on all abortions.  That is not the case.  The public policy question would simply be returned to the states, including many that would allow at least limited availability.  

Some abortion advocates may charge that the numbers cited above are suspect, due to the affiliations of the organization that paid for the poll.  That complaint would ignore Marist's reputation as a nonpartisan firm, not to mention the raft of additional polling that has produced similar results in recent years.  Ponnuru links to Gallup's latest survey on the question from May 2016, which closely mirrors the Marist findings:  Americans split almost exactly evenly on the "pro-life/pro-choice" dichotomy (46 and 47 percent, respectively), with 56 percent saying that abortion should be legal only in "a few" circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances.  Even if the pro-life stances were broadly unpopular, that wouldn't change the moral, ethical, or scientific implications of abortion.  But given the persistent effort of pro-abortion rights organizations and politicians to pigeonhole and marginalize pro-life sentiment, these numbers are important to highlight.  

Abortion politics will return to the limelight over the next few weeks, as tens of thousands of pro-life demonstrators descend on the nation's capital to protest Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court battle heats up, and Congress considers the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, as well as the reallocation of federal dollars away from Planned Parenthood to other women's health centers that aren't perennially scandal plagued abortion factories.  Speaking of which, stay tuned for this new undercover investigation by Live Action, due out tomorrow.  This will be the theme: