Friday, July 12, 2013

More bad political science

And then again maybe it's just poor journalism. Hard to distinguish here.

More people identify themselves as pro-life than pro-choice: A Gallup poll found 50 percent of people call themselves pro-life and 41 percent pro-choice. The latter is a record low.

However, a strong majority of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned: 63 percent say they would not like to see the court completely overturn Roe v. Wade; 29 percent would.

But the same Pew poll finds a plurality objects to abortion on moral grounds: 47 percent say it’s “morally wrong,” compared with 13 percent who say it’s “morally acceptable.” Twenty-seven percent say it’s not a moral issue. Nine percent say it depends on the situation.

Support for abortion rights drops dramatically after the first trimester: A Gallup poll found 61 percent of people believe abortion generally should be legal in the first three months of pregnancy while 31 percent disagree. But only 27 percent of people believe it should be legal in the second trimester and only 14 percent believe it should be legal in the third trimester. Gallup has found that pattern each time it has asked the question since 1996.

There's a lot of contradiction in there, but when you look at this bipartisan poll of Texans from last month, you see a completely different picture.

"Texans disapprove of the legislature taking up abortion bills during the special session by 80%, according to a bipartisan poll conducted from June 17-19, 2013. In addition, 63% of Texas voters think the state has enough abortion restrictions, and 71% say the legislature should be focusing on the economy and jobs. ...

74% of registered voters say that personal, private medical decisions about whether to have an abortion should be made by a woman, her family, and her doctor -- not by politicians. And the support is wide across the spectrum: 76% of independents and 61% of Republicans agreed."

Who or what to believe here?

Gallup's record in presidential polling -- a category subject to considerably less nuance than abortion -- has been slipping a lot in recent years. Pew has been more accurate. The outfit cited by Progress Texas above, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, fared best among these in 2012, according to the wizard of polling analysis, Nate Silver.

But this, written by Karen Tumulty at the LA Times 24 years ago, via HuffPolians Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy, seems definitive enough with respect to polls about abortion.

"Abortion is a topic that leaves most people feeling uncomfortable and confused. Theirs is 'a conditional, complex, middle position,' says Thomas W. Smith of the University of Chicago's National Opinion Center, which has been tracking public sentiment on abortion since the early 1960s...Surveys on abortion often yield contradictory results. Ask a question one way, and a solid majority of Americans will say that abortion should remain legal. Change the wording a bit, and the same group will favor banning it. Nonetheless, from these surveys comes what both sides realize is the winning strategy in the nation's war over abortion. 'Just as the polls come out according to the way the question is asked, so will the outcome of elections depend on who is more successful in framing what the question is all about,' [Democratic pollster Harrison] Hickman says."

Time and again I've posted my opinion of public polling. I'll repeat: polls have all of the utility of a few squares of toilet paper about to be used for their intended purpose. And once utilized, experience the most rapid of diminishing marginal value. If you wanted to be less crude than me then you might say "it's a snapshot in time". Except it would be one of those Polaroid shake-its that fades fairly quickly to nearly invisible.

For the purpose of this post let's go back to the first excerpt above and note the Houston Chron's Todd Ackerman being surprised at the pro-life versus pro-choice polling results. As we already know about polls, it's all in how the question is asked. In this case it is all about how the term "pro-life" is interpreted by the pollee as well as the reader of the poll. (Very important: not defined, but translated.)

For one thing, it isn't pro-life but actually just "pro-birth", especially as Texas Republicans and those in other states have chosen to implement legislation. From 2008 to 2011 -- the years of greatest economic turmoil in the the US -- 72 percent of women who sought an abortion already had children. Which makes it more obvious that the choice women have to make turns on economic reality more than some moral judgment. And it is no stretch to say that children born into dire financial circumstances are poorly nourished, lack basic medical care, and are further punished economically now if their parent is so much as spending time around someone else who smokes marijuana.

That is simply by no accurate definition, translation, or interpretation "pro-life".

But because Republicans have lots of corporate money with which to drive this and other false messages home -- not to mention having, you know, God on their side --  they can sway the unwashed masses into believing that their definition of pro-life is to be exalted.

Besides, those libruls are just baby-killers.

If you would like to better understand the complex socio-economic and moral dilemmas women must endure, not to mention the emotional quandaries and barriers to exercising their reproductive choice, then read this.


Gadfly said...

Agreed with that great confused middle comment from Tumulty, along with everything else here.

I'm in that mix myself. I'm willing to allow a few, but not many, exceptions post-viability, but think that the state does have a strong "compelling interest" at that point.

At the same time, I go into the squeamish land some pro-choicers won't, and say that Medicaid ought to pay for abortions.

Finally, per a running thread of debate, not all atheists, even, are pro-choice. Nat Hentoff is an obvious counterexample. And, although he doesn't call himself an atheist, George Will is OK with the "none" label, at least, and he's pro-life, though it's not a repeated, beat-into-the-dirt issue with him.

PDiddie said...

Yes, that's something new I learned as part of this discussion: not all progressives are pro-choice. There are -- to my great surprise -- a handful of people on the Harris County Green Party listserv that favor abortion restrictions.

I would like to think there are many more pro-choice conservatives in Houston, Texas, and the US, but I have no idea how that might be verified. I wouldn't trust any poll to be accurate on that question, either.