A misleading poll online Survey Monkey poll, conducted Sept. 5-7, 2018, by new media company Axios, has come under fire — from a surprising source. The poll asked 2,033 adults in the United States, “In 1973, the Roe v. Wade decision established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Would you like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn its Roe v. Wade decision?” The answer choices were, “No, leave decision as is,” or “Yes, overturn and make abortion illegal.”
There’s a big problem with this.
The question, first of all, is flawed at best:
- First, Roe and the companion case Doe v. Bolton (decided on the same day) legalized abortion in every trimester of pregnancy.
- Second, if the Court overrules Roe, it simply goes back to the states to decide, like it was prior to 1973.
The way a poll phrases a question (or in this case, an answer option) can impact the results substantially, especially on abortion. In 2013, Pew Research Center found that a majority of young adults (57%) between the ages of 18 and 29 don’t even know what Roe v. Wade is.
Axios’ improperly worded question led those polled to believe abortion would automatically become illegal if Roe was overturned, rather than being left up to states to make their own laws. It resulted in 71 percent of respondents claiming that they didn’t want Roe overturned. Naturally, abortion supporters were elated.
The Daily Mail was suspicious of the results, noting that “Gallup’s polling has consistently found a near-even split among self-described ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ Americans, with each camp claiming about 48 per cent of voters in May…. In July Dannenfelser’s group [SBA List] commissioned the independent McLaughlin & Associates firm to poll 1,000 likely voters. That survey found 58 per cent wanted their state legislatures to determine the future of abortion policy – not the Supreme Court.”
After release of the poll, Daily Mail writer David Martosko tweeted, “The question was worded poorly.”
So, they reached out to Axios, with Martosko writing:
Two Democratic Senate aides told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that the poll would figure prominently in Democrats’ arguments that Kavanaugh’s presumed position on reproductive rights is out of step with the nation and should keep him off the nation’s highest court. But, following questions from DailyMail.com about the poll’s wording, the news organization that commissioned it is walking it back, likely leaving President Donald Trump’s Capitol Hill opponents without a much needed arrow in their quiver as they make a final anti-Kavanaugh case on the Senate floor…
Axios Editor-in-Chief Nick Johnston told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that his organization would be revising its conclusions.
‘That question was not worded well and we missed it,’ Johnston said in an email about the mistake.
Johnston told the paper Axios would “correct the story headline and body” to say it actually polled on American’s opinions on the legality of abortion, “not strictly on roe v wade (because those are 2 separate things).”
But The Daily Mail called Axios out again, noting, “That means that in order for 71 per cent to believe Roe should be left ‘as is,’ more than half of pro-life Americans would have to agree.” And obviously, that’s not the case, making the poll completely unreliable.
Misleading statements and polls surrounding abortion are numerous. In one example, The Daily Mail noted, “A similar Wall Street Journal poll in July confused the issue… telling respondents that Roe ‘established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion’ and asking if the Supreme Court should ‘completely overturn’ it.”
Newsbusters MRC’s Katie Yoder responded to that misleading statement, writing:
In other words, voters weren’t just asked if Roe v. Wade should or should not be overturned. They were told what Roe v. Wade was: a ruling that “established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.”
That wording was charged. To say Roe v. Wade should be overturned was to say that a “woman’s constitutional right” should be overturned. A more neutral or “better phrasing” might have described Roe v. Wade as a decision that “legalized abortion nationwide,” pro-life lawyer Catherine Glenn Foster told the MRC.
Live Action News reported on a June 2018 Gallup poll, which found that 43% of Americans feel abortion should be legal in all (29%) or most (14%) circumstances, while a majority of 53% say it should be legal in only a few (35%) or no circumstances (18%).
In August of 2018, Live Action News reported results from a CBS and Refinery29 poll that found only 28% want abortion “legal in all cases.” Other results included: 34% want abortion “legal in most cases,” 25% want abortion “illegal in most cases,” and 13% want abortion “illegal in all cases.”
In the end, that means 72% are likely in favor of some kind of abortion restriction.
Other polls reviewed by Live Action News give similar results.
This month, Life News reported on a new poll that showed a small percentage of Americans want abortion legal under all circumstances. “The American Barometer poll for The Hill found that 55 percent of Americans think abortions should be illegal in all or most cases, while just 18 percent think it should be legal for any reason up to birth,” Life News wrote.