Pew Research Center recently released a survey titled, “Roe v. Wade at 40: Most Oppose Overturning Abortion Decision.” Here are some examples of how the media reported the findings:
• “Majority Upholds Landmark U.S. Abortion Ruling: Poll,” AFP (French News Agency)
• “As ‘Roe v. Wade’ Turns 40, Most Oppose Reversing Abortion Ruling,” Reuters
• “Roe v. Wade at 40: Pew Poll Finds Abortion Not a Key Issue,” Los Angeles Times
• “Poll: Most Americans Oppose Reversing Abortion Ruling,” Washington Post
• “Survey: Few Religious Groups Want Roe v. Wade Overturned Despite Belief Abortion Morally Wrong,” CNN
Only CNN indicated that most Americans are conflicted about abortion. In fairness to the other media outlets, they were not inaccurate; the survey was misleading.
Generally, Pew does excellent research. The problem with this survey is that it gave respondents only two choices: “Would you like to see the Supreme Court (a) Completely Overturn Roe v. Wade or (b) Not Overturn Roe v. Wade.” Either/or questions on complex issues are inherently flawed. Pew should have known this when it learned, in the same poll, that 47% said abortion is “Morally Wrong”; only 13% said it is “Morally Acceptable.” Among Protestants, the figures were 56% to 9%; among Catholics, it was 55% to 9%.
A more sophisticated poll by Gallup last May found that the majority of Americans (52%) want abortion legal under certain circumstances; 25% want it legal in all cases and 20% want it illegal in all cases. In other words, only a quarter of Americans support Roe v. Wade as it was written. Most want restrictions.