13 September 2013

Uncommon Commentary #367: Poll Results that Get the Gall Up (Part One)

I recall hearing, in the late 1980's or early 1990's, that the majority of the people in the USA opposed (induced) abortion but were ambivalent about what ought to substitute for it.  Remembering this made me curious about what I've heard more recently, and which seemed quite inconsistent with the ongoing collapse of our moral standards: that the USA is becoming pro-life.  I did research at Gallup.org and learned, among other things, that the difference between the percentage of the populace describing themselves as "pro-life" and the percentage calling themselves "pro-choice" underwent a 32-point shift from 1995 to May 2009: from 33 percent "pro-life" and 56 percent "pro-choice" in 1995 to 51 percent "pro-life" and 42 percent "pro-choice" in May 2009.  This looks like a revolution in opinion, but "pro-choice" and "pro-life" are just labels.  On the five occasions when the Gallupers have posed the question "Thinking more generally, do you think abortion should generally [Note the use of this word.—Doman] be legal or generally illegal during each of the following stages of pregnancy?", the results (from Gallup.org) were as follows. (You'll have to "click" the image if you want to see the entire thing.)
From the first to the latest survey, therefore, the disparity between the should-be-legal and the should-be-illegal positions decreased, in regard to the first trimester of pregnancy, from +34 to +30 percentage points; in regard to the other two trimesters, the disparity increased from -39 to -37 and from -69 to -66 percentage points.  These results suggest that what has really changed is not public attitude but rather the concept of "pro-life".  Indeed, when I read one of Gallup.org's articles (In U.S., Nonreligious, Postgrads [sic] Are Highly "Pro-Choice") for a separate purpose, I found support for this hypothesis: "While the poll ["Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll", of 3-6 May 2012] found a significant decline in self-identification as pro-choice, Americans' [sic] more basic views of the legality of abortion were unchanged this year." ("Significant decline in self-identification as pro-choice" alludes to the previous survey's tie between the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" camps, each with 47 percentage points.  The table below, from Gallup.org, shows the result for each occasion on which Gallup has asked those polled "With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-life or pro-choice?"; note that the 27-30 December 2012 survey, taken less than eight months after the percentage of "pro-choice" respondents had fallen to a record-low 41, registers a 13-point swing in the opposite direction.)
The object of this posting is not to discourage my fellow pro-lifers by showing them how much work still needs to be done; rather, it is to caution them against assuming that fÅ“ticide can be outlawed completely (or even close to completely) by working through the "democratic" process.  If you want to achieve any kind of success, you must be realistic about your goals, and it seems very unrealistic to hope for anything more than extremely limited victories such as July's legislation in Texas.  Anyway, public opinion is not the only obstacle to ending the tragedy of induced abortion, as you will see in a future uncommon commentary.