Real feelings about Dobbs decision obscured by muddled polling.
One of the central justifications for the Left’s proposed court-packing scheme is to claim that the reversal of Roe v. Wade is so radically out of step with the American public that it is an undemocratic, minoritarian power grab. Not only is the argument based on the unconstitutional notion that justices should weigh the vagaries of public opinion before ruling but it also relies on the irreconcilable claim that empowering the public to vote on an issue unmentioned in the Constitution is an attack on “democracy.”
Now, that’s all bad enough, but the thing is, even the underlying claim isn’t true. Take, for instance, this new poll by Monmouth University, headlined, “Majority Disapprove of Reversing Roe.” Yes, a majority of 60% disapprove of overturning Roe. And after 50 years of cultural and political indoctrination about abortion “rights,” it’s almost surely the case that a large part of that 60% of voters barely have any idea what Roe entailed, or any legal arguments for why it shouldn’t be overturned, or much understanding of what its demise means.
A deeper look at the poll shows that 46% say Congress should pass a national law “allowing abortion”—what a ridiculously vague phrase—but “44% prefer to leave abortion law up to the states.” And “just 7% want a national ban.” So, even with the purposely opaque wording of the poll, Monmouth could have headlined the findings, “54% of Americans Oppose a National Law Codifying Roe.”
How could that be? Does anyone believe that among the same 60% who support upholding abortion by judicial decree are those opposed to codifying the same exact rights through the democratic process? Or is the public confused about what Roe meant?
Pollsters have been highlighting these irrelevant questions about abortion, a practice that most Americans probably have complicated feelings about, for decades. And it probably isn’t going to get any better.
A recent Public Policy Polling survey posed this false choice: “Which of the following statements best describes your view on abortion: ‘I believe a woman should have the right to choose and Roe v Wade should not be overturned’ or ‘I believe abortion should be criminalized and Roe v Wade should be overturned in its entirety.'”
Not long ago, Politico asked voters about the prospect of prison for women who obtain abortions, which Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has nothing to do with and the anti-abortion movement has always opposed. Abortion laws in place punish those who perform abortions, not pregnant women. The Texas law everyone was freaking out about specifically exempts women from homicide charges for abortions.
Then there is NPR, which reports, “Poll: Majorities oppose Supreme Court’s abortion ruling and worry about other rights.” The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist, a transparent push poll, doesn’t even bother asking about policy. It offers no context for why anyone should believe their “rights” would be imperiled—and abortion, of course, isn’t a right. (Even with all this, a majority in the NPR poll oppose packing the court.)
When Monmouth asks if voters support Democrats’ plan “allowing abortion,” they too are misleading the public. We already know what the Democrats’ national bill would do. So a more honest question would be: “Do you support the Democratic Party’s efforts to legalize abortion through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason, paid for by taxpayers, in all 50 states?”
For that matter, why don’t pollsters ask voters if they agree with the Biden administration that abortions are vital in keeping down the poor population, increasing labor-force participation and helping the economy? Why don’t they ask voters if they support the Democrats’ efforts to force states to allow abortions after viability and sex-selective abortions, and strip parental or guardian notification for minors? These are real-life policy proposals that Democrats want to pass. The only national bill Republicans in Congress have forwarded in recent years has been a “heartbeat” bill. And guess what? It polls very well.
Then again, Dobbs finally allows us to find out what people really think.
David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist. Harsanyi is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of five books—the most recent, “Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent.” His work has appeared in National Review, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Reason, New York Post and numerous other publications. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.
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