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Misreading Abortion Polls

1:46 PM, May 24, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Mother Jones's Adam Serwer takes a look at the new Gallup poll showing "pro-life" Americans outnumbering "pro-choice" Americans by a 9-point margin and writes:

[A] large majority—77 percent—of Americans support abortion being legal in all or "certain circumstances," and just 20 percent of Americans are actually "pro-life" in the sense that opponents of legalized abortion understand the term. Another way of saying this is that most Americans are actually pro-choice even if they sometimes identify as pro-life. 

Ramesh Ponnuru corrects Serwer's inaccurate reading of the polls:

Here are the latest numbers: As of May 3–6, 20 percent of Americans think abortion should be “illegal in all circumstances,” 39 percent say it should be “legal only in a few circumstances,” 13 percent say it should be “legal under most circumstances,” and 25 percent say it should be “legal under all circumstances.”

The vast majority of opponents of legalized abortion have been willing to bestow the “pro-life” label on politicians who do not take the position that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. George W. Bush, for example, favored exceptions to a ban for cases where pregnancies threatened the mother’s life or resulted from rape or incest. One might say, then, that his position amounted to thinking that abortion should be legal “only in a few circumstances.” The two relatively life-protective positions get a combined 59 percent, the two less-protective positions get 38 percent.

And when it comes to an issue like using public dollars to pay for abortions under Obamacare, 72 percent of voters are opposed.

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