Investigative

Biased language used in poll claiming millennials support abortion

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A new GenForward and Black Youth Project poll appears to show that 45 percent of the millennial population supports a woman’s ‘right’ to an abortion — which is inconsistent with a number of other polls on the subject. A closer look at the poll’s language may reveal the reason why it is considered an outlier, and therefore, unreliable.

Adults ages 18-30 were given four response options:

  • “By law, abortion should never be permitted” (13 percent supported)
  • “The law should permit abortion only in case of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger” (23 percent supported)
  • “The law should permit abortion for reasons other than rape, incest, or danger to the woman’s life, but only after the need for the abortion has been clearly established” (13 percent supported)
  • “By law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice” (45 percent supported)

While this poll’s 13 percent reported millennial opposition to any kind of abortion is consistent with other polls, the third option is confusing in that it does not define what “the need for the abortion” may involve.

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The idea of a “need” is often highly subjective. This usage of the term is similar to the way “health” was used in the landmark case of Doe v. Bolton, a companion to Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. What Doe did was offer an exception for limiting late-term abortions for the “health” of the mother. “Health” is so broadly defined that it could mean anything that the woman and her abortionist decide — regardless of how far along she is in her pregnancy.

The fourth option also carries with it the issue of biased language, particularly when it comes to the phrase, “as a matter of personal choice.” This phrase dresses up abortion as if ending another human life is a choice just like any other… an obvious pro-abortion slant.

Aside from all of this, the 45 percent figure is an outlier.

A Knights of Columbus/Marist poll, released in January, included breakdowns by generation. Only 13 percent of millennials polled said that “Abortion should be available to a woman any time she wants one during her pregnancy.” This option is worded most closely to the option chosen by 45 percent polled by GenForward.

Another poll, this one from Students for Life of America, similarly found that just 17 percent of millennials believe abortion should be legal “at any time, for any reason.”

Neither question carries the biased language included in the GenForward poll.

When accounting for each single option in the GenForward poll, the 45 percent is an overwhelming plurality. But when the three other options are added up together as pro-life positions — or those which at least favor some abortion restrictions — the total is 49 percent in favor of restricting abortion. Even with a suspect poll, close to half of those 18-30 are either pro-life in their convictions or at the very least support certain restrictions on abortion.

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GenForward poll questions about Planned Parenthood, a leading abortion chain in both the nation and the world, also show pro-abortion bias. “Would you favor or oppose totally eliminating federal funding to Planned Parenthood for family planning and preventive services?” the survey asked. A majority strongly opposed (47 percent) or somewhat opposed (20 percent) eliminating funding. Only 15 percent strongly supported ending funding and another 17 percent somewhat supported the option.

The language of the question emphasizes Planned Parenthood’s “family planning and preventive services,” which people can get from federally qualified health centers and community centers. (In fact, FQHCs outnumber Planned Parenthoods more than 13 to 1.) And Planned Parenthood’s preventive services continue to decrease, even while their taxpayer dollars increase. Eliminating federal funding of Planned Parenthood would direct the funds instead to FHQCs, which do not provide abortions. The poll did not mention that Planned Parenthood commits more abortions than any other organization in the United States — more than 320,000 every year.

This poll is another example of why we can’t take everything at face value when it comes to public opinion on abortion. Language matters.

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