Politics & Policy

Contrary to Media Spin, Public Support for Planned Parenthood Continues to Erode

Signs at a rally against Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Getty)

On Monday, the Washington Post ran a story about public opinion toward Planned Parenthood. According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, the shocking videos released by the Center for Medical Progress have purportedly resulted in little change in attitudes toward the organization. Additionally, the poll indicates that most Americans continue to support federal funding for Planned Parenthood. This poll has been touted by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post and covered by numerous media outlets, including MSNBC, The Hill, and National Public Radio.

To the Washington Post’s credit, it did seek comments from pro-life groups. And the pro-lifers interviewed in the article, including Mallory Quigley of the Susan B. Anthony List and Representative Steve King (R., Iowa), did a nice job offering encouragement to pro-lifers. After all, Planned Parenthood has developed a strong reputation over time, and mainstream media have offered only limited coverage of the Center for Medical Progress videos. Moreover, media outlets often try to raise questions about the credibility of the videos when they do cover them.

It is important to note, however, that a longer-term view of the survey data indicates that progress is being made. Ramesh Ponnuru notes that a 1989 Gallup poll found that 89 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Planned Parenthood. Most polling data today puts Planned Parenthoods’ favorability rating well under 50 percent. More-recent data comes from a Monmouth University poll. Since 2012, the percentage of registered voters who viewed Planned Parenthood favorably has fallen from 55 percent to 38 percent. Additionally, the percentage of people who support cutting off federal funds to Planned Parenthood increased from 31 to 42 percent. 

#share#It should also be noted that the much-touted Wall Street Journal/NBCpoll fails to mention that Planned Parenthood performs abortions. It also does not mention anything about the Center for Medical Progress videos. Interestingly, surveys that describe the videos often do see a significant reduction in support for Planned Parenthood. A Reuters poll in August found that after the Center for Medical Progress videos were described to respondents, support for Planned Parenthood funding fell from 54 to 39 percent.

#related#Overall, the videos released by the Center for Medical Progress may not have shifted public opinion as much as some pro-lifers have hoped. However, they would do well to consider a long-term perspective. When the Republicans took control of Congress in the mid 1990s, pro-lifers could not even get a vote on defunding Planned Parenthood. Now, a vast majority of Republican elected officials support defunding it. Additionally, nearly every Republican presidential candidate opposes federal funding for it.

The pro-life movement should take heart. Evidence that progress is being made is plentiful.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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