Blog Post

Fatally Flawed Poll Embarrasses Roe Supporters

A widely publicized poll that allegedly found only 23 percent of Americans willing to overturn Roe v. Wade – which most mistakenly believe will end abortion in America - has been found to have been fatally flawed.

Thanks to the some digging by the Daily Mail, the sensational Survey Monkey poll results were published yesterday by Axios under the headline, “Exclusive Poll: Americans Want to Leave Roe v. Wade in Place.”

At first glance, pro-abortion lawmakers believed these poll results would become a powerful weapon to use against what seems to be the imminent confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“Two Democratic Senate aides told 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," the Mail reported.

However, the way the poll was worded raised questions in their minds about its validity.

For example, the poll stated: “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 choices were “Yes, overturn and make abortion illegal” or “No, leave decision as is.”

The flaw in the poll is obvious – overturning Roe v. Wade would not make abortion illegal in the United States. It would simply shift decisions about it to the states rather than the federal government.

Because most Americans want to see at least some restriction on abortion rather than making it illegal, it was not surprising that this misleading formulation resulted in only 23 percent saying it should remain as is.

“The survey question left open the possibility that participants were voting against a scenario that would be constitutionally impossible,” the Mail explains. “Roe outlawed most abortion restrictions by taking away the states' authority to legalize the practice, establishing that a woman's right to privacy could only be curtailed in the case of abortion by a 'compelling state interest'. Overturning it would not make abortions illegal: It would return the issue to the states for more localized decisions.”

When confronted with this flaw, Axios Editor-in-Chief Nick Johnston told the Mail that the question was not worded well and that his organization “missed it." Therefore, he promised to revise the story's headline and conclusions.

“We're going to correct the story headline and body to say it's actually polling on whether abortion should be illegal, not strictly on Roe v Wade (because those are 2 separate things),” Johnston told the Mail.

Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) president Marjorie Dannenfelser told the Mail that pro-life women are victims of a “media-perpetuated misconception that overrunning Roe ends abortion. Not true.”

She explains: “Eroding or overturning Roe will simply allow the wheels of democracy to turn in every state. ... When voters are asked do they want courts or elected officials to determine abortion law, they choose their elected officials overwhelmingly,” she said.

A correctly worded poll commissioned by SBA List in July which involved 1,000 likely voters, found that 58 percent wanted their state legislatures to determine the future of abortion policy, not the Supreme Court.

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