New York Times/CBS Poll Shows Consistent Support for Legal Abortion Rights


A poll conducted September 12-16, by the New York Times and CBS News (PDF), demonstrates once again the strong support for legal abortion rights in the mainstream of American life.  The poll also indicates that very few people will be making their minds up based on social issues, with 48 percent saying the economy is the most important issue. Following far behind the economy is terrorism and national security cited by 14 percent and health care/gas prices and energy both coming in at 10 percent as most important to voters. Only five percent said they would decide based on "something else", not necessarily social issues.

Two questions about abortion were rotated with half of the 1,113 respondents in the sample answering one of the questions.

Question 73: Which of these comes closest to your view? 1. Abortion should be generally available to those who want it; OR 2. Abortion should be available but under stricter limits than it is now; OR 3. Abortion should not be permitted?

  • Available         37%
  • Stricter Limits  42%
  • Not Permitted  19%
  • DK/NA              2%

 

Question 74: What is your personal feeling about abortion: 1. It should be permitted in all cases; OR 2. It should be permitted, but subject to greater restrictions than it is now; OR 3. It should be permitted only in cases such as rape, incest and to save the woman’s life; OR 4. It should ONLY be permitted to save the woman’s life?

  • Permitted in all cases                               31%
  • Permitted with greater restrictions              19%
  • Permitted for rape/incest/save life              28%
  • Only permitted to save the woman’s life      15%
  • Not permitted at all                                  4%
  • DK/NA                                                    3% 


These are questions consistenly asked over many years in this poll and these numbers have remained steady, if anything they have shown a slight increase in support for the right to safe, legal abortion.

Far-right social conservatives seek to overturn Roe v. Wade which would ban abortion automatically in 23 states and set the stage for Congress to pass a legislative ban at the federal level in all 50 states.  It seems hard to imagine this could happen given the consistent high level of polling support by Americans, but it only takes a couple more Supreme Court Justices who will then demonstrate right wing judicial activism by undoing 35 years of settled law represented by Roe.

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  • invalid-0

    Ummm… actually these polls suggest that the majority of people would like to see more restrictions. Only 31% agree with abortion on demand which is what we have now. If anything, it sounds like Americans are ready to get the abortion issue out of the federal courts and into the states. Did you even look at the polls you cited?

  • scott-swenson

    N:
    I’ve been reading polls for a long time, and the very strong argument I was making was that everyone but those who want abortion banned entirely, believe in some form of legal abortion, thus do not want to see Roe overturned. For future reference, a "majority" is more than 50 percent. As for "abortion on demand" I know its a favorite slogan of the far right, but it is as trite as trite can be. Pro-choice people support an education, prevention and choice agenda, and that’s where the MAJORITY of Americans are as measured in many polls that look at sex ed and contraception.  Add to that these numbers that show support for safe and legal abortions, even with some restrictions, and it gets very hard to make a case for overturning Roe, denying contraception access, and supporting abstinence-only. But please, go ahead, show the moderates just how extreme the right really is.


    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • invalid-0

    These polls don’t bode well for most pro-choice advocates. Groups like NARAL, Planned Parenthood, NOW, and the like have never (to my recollection) supported ANY legal restrictions on abortion, which puts them in the minority of the above polls.

    To break down the issue further, the second poll you cited shows that 47% of Americans would like to ban 98% of abortions! It also shows that 2/3 of the American public do not follow the line of pro-choice lobbying organizations that claim there should be no legal restrictions to abortion access.

    You of course may claim that these groups support bans on late-term abortions with “health exceptions,” but those restrictions really only restrict abortion in “name only.” What if a nervous pregnant teen waited until she was 26 weeks pregnant (which happens more than you think) and wanted an abortion because she feels she isn’t ready to be a mom? Would that qualify as a “health exception?” I doubt any major pro-choice organization would support laws that would deny this girl access to abortion. In light of this wouldn’t it be fair to say that both major pro-choice and pro-life groups are outside of what mainstream America wants which is more common sense laws that restrict abortion?

  • scott-swenson

    DPowers: It’s the far-right that is trying to ban abortion, in this campaign and for 35 years, in all instances. You can theorize about extreme hypothetical cases, but the reality is most Americans know that these are not decisions made lightly, and that they should be made privately within families and with doctors, on a case by case basis. The far-right wants to legislate every possible case not because it has the interest of women at heart, but because by bringing up extreme and extremely rare cases, you play on people’s emotions. The far-right always talks about late term, where in fact health and life of the mother must be documented, and always avoid the fact that 90% or more of abortions occur much earlier, in the first weeks. The point, quite simply, is that the only way for people to agree on anything requires the far-right to give up on the total ban, give up overturning Roe, give up trying to make contraception inaccessible or illegal and give up teaching failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. If the far-right did that, and worked with progressives on a real education and prevention agenda, who knows what might happen? We’ve tried it your way for 35 years, and it appears most people agree that this is a right that should be safe and legal and properly decided by women and doctors. But as long as every effort by the far-right is one more attempt to undermine Roe, it is the far-right that is missing the point and trying to impose one narrow mindset, a total abortion ban, on every American. The numbers don’t lie D, and you know well that they’ve been consistent. But please, keep pushing the extremist agenda teaching abstinence-only, and trying to ban contraception and all abortion, I’m hoping more independents and moderates are waking up to what the far-right is really all about.


    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • invalid-0

    Very amusing rant Scott. Unfortunately, I am a pro-life liberal who hails from the center-left . . . not the far-right you seem to hate so much. I oppose abortion, the death penalty, and the current military occupation in Iraq because all three violate the right-to-life. I have no problem promoting comprehensive sex ed that is truly comprehensive (one that teaches effective abstinence techniques as well as effective contraceptive techniques). In addition, my research shows that hormonal birth control and emergency contraception have a very low chance(possibly none) of preventing a newly conceived embryo from implanting, so I support its use to reduce abortion rates.
    I oppose abortion because it kills unborn human beings. They may be smaller, less developed, and more dependent on their mothers than you or I, but these humans should still be treated humanely. This belief is scientific and philosophical in nature, not religious.
    You are right that a total ban on abortion won’t make much headway, the far right should refocus on that. But the far-left misses the point that abortion is bad because it kills human fetuses and embryos. They miss the point when they push abortion without any legal restriction at all (correct me if I’m wrong but that is what you are advocating right). I’m all for working overtime to reduce abortion so more unborn children don’t have to perish. Of course giving these children legal protection they used to have under the law would be good too. Maybe one day there can be a compromise of effective pregnancy prevention programs, pregnancy and parenting assistance, economic and social development, anti-abortion education, and common sense abortion restrictions that will reduce abortions to levels that rival or surpass Western Europe. But if you and other pro-choicers are as dogmatic as your counterparts on the far right are, then I fear that day will be late in coming . . .

  • scott-swenson

    DP: Forgive me for misplacing you in the far-right box that opposes education and prevention measures. My bad and I apologize, I certainly understand not wanting be confused with that narrow thinking. I do not hate them, but I am concerned as an American that their influence in public policy is disproportionate, that they use misinformation and manipulation to distort arguments and distract from reality, and I think they should be held accountable. What I advocate is simple, medical decisions are best made by the individuals involved and the doctors they choose, not other people’s values or ideology, but those of the people directly involved. We all have to take responsibility for the choices we make. The more we educate people about facts and provide access for people to make responsible decisions for their lives, they will.


    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • scott-swenson

    I can’t resist posting this, but I’m having a hard time typing between the laughter.  Lifesite, the people who bring you all the news that’s fit to distort in their efforts to pass a total ban on abortion, looked at this same poll and could not bring themselves to see the simple math. 

     

    People who agree with Lifesite that Roe v Wade should be overturned and there should be a total ban on abortion  equal 19 percent in the very generally worded question 73, and when you take out people who believe that the life of the mother is sufficient reason to allow a woman to make her own health care decisions, it drops to 4 percent as we see in question 74 where more specific categories are given.

     

    People who agree that abortion should remain safe and legal in some form equal 79 percent in question 73 and 93 percent in question 74.

     

    The far-right wants to ban all abortions, severely limit access to contraception, and only teach kids failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. While people may interpret the word "restrictions" in different ways, it stretches all credibility to suggest that the American public, as represented in this poll, agrees with a total abortion ban which is what Lifesite suggests in its press release, and is very clearly what they support and work to achieve.The numbers don’t lie, but Lifesite sure does.

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • invalid-0

    On the topic of abortion, even many people who defend the possibility of legal abortions, they say they are not pro-abortion, but they don’t want to punish women who are in this difficult situation. In Germany a curious thing has happened. Something that reflects that legal abortion affects adversely to the country. And also that the change is possible: you can promote a culture of life with the support of the citizens, when really there is a real wish of avoid abortions. Since the liberalization of abortion in this country, the number of abortions is officially four million. For that reason, among others, children are seen as an unintended effect of having sex. Many people thought it was necessary to promote greater social acceptance of children in an aging society. And civil society acted, without waiting for action by the State to promote births. They joined several media organizations in a campaign. Interestingly, after the campaign, the birth rate has risen in Germany. The video is exciting. Look here: http://es.youtube.com/watch?v=SztG8JpxvHY
    Santiago Chiva (Granada, Spain)