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What's Wrong With the Polling on Repealing Roe?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

One of the issues we conservatives have to deal with on a regular basis is that we have to fight against The Narrative,™ which the media seizes in order to present everything the left does as good and everything the right does as bad. A recent example of the uphill battle against The Narrative™ is Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, which Democrats and the media falsely tagged the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Conservatives won the fight in Florida, but the “Don’t Say Gay” smear turned war into a two-front battle of legislation and propaganda. The same principles are at play in the abortion debate that has blown up after the leak of a draft from the Supreme Court that suggests that the justices are ready to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Almost any article or news report you see that talks about the debate over abortion reflexively mentions something to the effect of “a majority of Americans favor keeping Roe in place.” It reminds me of the episode of Seinfeld where a rumor starts that Jerry and George are gay, and when they deny it, they follow their denials with “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Earlier this week, Politico touted the results of a poll which stated that “Fifty-three percent of voters say Roe should not be overturned, up three percentage points since last week. Twenty-eight percent say Roe should be overturned.” Also, “Among Republican voters, just 48% support overturning Roe. That’s down three points from last week. (emphasis in the original)

For Our VIPs: What the Left Gets Wrong on Abortion Polling

To add to The Narrative™ on repealing Roe, the poll asked voters about nightmare scenarios involving a post-Roe world.

“Seventy-three percent oppose prison time for women to receive abortions,” noted Politico. “That includes 84% of Democratic voters, 76% of independents and 60% of Republicans.”

But there’s more: “Eighty percent of Democrats and 64% of independents oppose fines for doctors who perform abortions. Among Republicans, 50% support fining doctors, while 39% oppose it.”

The assumptions of The Narrative™ are that Roe was this marvelous piece of jurisprudence and that, if the Supreme Court overturns it, the nation will descend into chaos with every woman in America subjecting herself to grimy back-alley abortions.

Any reasonable person who has read the Constitution more than he or she has read The Handmaid’s Tale would know that what the left and the media suggest just isn’t the case. Overturning Roe will take the issue of abortion out of the federal government’s hands and give it back to the states — where it belongs.

The problem with the polling lies in the poll questions, of course. Aside from the ridiculous hypothetical situations these pollsters ask about, the prevailing question is whether a voter believes that the Court should overturn Roe.

Over at National Review, David Harsanyi points out that the question of overturning a particular Supreme Court decision isn’t the real issue.

“The court exists not to care what polls tell them,” he writes. “And, really, on what constitutional grounds do these 53 percent of Americans maintain the decision should be upheld? There is tons of evidence illustrating that, other than in the broadest terms, most Americans have no idea what Roe entails.”

Harsanyi suggests that rather than simply asking voters whether they think the Court should overturn Roe, pollsters should ask a question like, “Do you believe the issue of abortion should be a protected constitutional right, or should voters be able to decide the issue on a state level?”

He notes that such a question would give those surveyed a more realistic lay of the land on the issue, and he posits that poll results might look quite different if a question like that one appeared on a survey.

“But, of course, that would mean informing those being questioned that overturning Roe doesn’t necessarily mean an abortion ban,” he adds. “That would be inconvenient.”

He’s right. We conservatives not only have to fight for the hearts and minds of the people we’re trying to convince, but we also have to swim upstream against The Narrative™ in which the left and their willing accomplices in the media frame our ideas in the worst way possible. That’s the way it’s always been, and it doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.