The Corner

Low-Quality Polling on the Race

NARAL, the abortion lobby, commissioned a poll that found that providing “balanced information” on the presidential candidates’ positions on abortion moved pro-choice independent voters to Obama. But the poll is a waste of time, and Democrats who rely on it are fooling themselves.

In the first place, several of the poll questions misstate McCain’s position. Several questions say that McCain wants to ban abortion even in the cases of rape, incest, and risks to the mother’s life. McCain has repeatedly said that he wants an abortion ban that makes exceptions for those cases.*

Second, the “balanced information” is pro-abortion, pro-Obama propaganda. It makes no mention of Obama’s support for taxpayer funding of abortion or his opposition to laws against partial-birth abortion. It is confusing on the subject of McCain’s position, at one point implying that overturning Roe would ban abortion and then implying the reverse.

What this poll tells us is that a significant bloc of voters will move toward Obama if they can be convinced that McCain wants to ban abortion even in the cases of rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life, and that Obama thinks abortion is a profoundly difficult decision, blah blah blah. But since NARAL does not have a monopoly on the conversation during a campaign, as opposed to a poll interview, that’s not likely to happen.

Third, the poll does not go into whether pro-life independents and Democrats might flee Obama given even this biased information. Democratic politicians might want to know the answer before devising their strategies.

* McCain did say that while he favored the rape and incest exceptions, he would have signed a South Dakota law that didn’t have them. And he supports the current Republican platform, which some people say endorses a ban with no exceptions. (That’s misleading, but I’ll take that up some other time.) I don’t think either point justifies the poll’s blanket statement that McCain wants to ban abortion even in the cases of rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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