The Corner

Rasmussen Poll Shows Little Change In Pro-Life Sentiment

The aftermath of the 2012 elections has been difficult for the pro-life movement. When Republican candidates fare poorly, social conservatives often bear much of the blame, and this election cycle has certainly been no exception. Making matters worse, many pundits have argued that the Democratic party’s crusade about a Republican “war on women,” coupled with the inopportune statements by Republican U.S. Senate candidates Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, made the pro-life position a political loser for the Republican party.

Making matters worse was a poll released by Rasmussen in the weeks after the election. It showed that “pro-choice” sentiment has increased to 54 percent, while only 38 percent of respondents described themselves as “pro-life.” This was in stark contrast to a Gallup survey from this past spring which showed that a majority of Americans described themselves as “pro-life.” The results of this Rasmussen survey were picked up by a number of a number of media outlets. Some pro-lifers quickly dismissed this particular poll as a statistical outlier, while others were quietly concerned that the dynamics of the 2012 election had significantly shifted public opinion on the abortion issue. 

However, a closer look at Rasmussen’s polling history indicates that pro-lifers have relatively little to worry about.  Rasmussen polls have always shown higher pro-choice sentiment than Gallup polls. This might be because Rasmussen surveys likely voters, while Gallup surveys the population as a whole. More important, the results of Rasmussen’s November poll showed very little change in abortion attitudes from a poll the firm took back in April. Rasmussen’s April survey also showed that likely voters were more likely to describe themselves as “pro-choice” rather than” pro-life,” by a 51–40 margin. In short, the “war on women” rhetoric and the statements by Akin and Mourdock only resulted in a three-percentage-point gain in “pro-choice” sentiment — a difference that falls within the poll’s margin of error.

Now as Ramesh Ponnuru points out in his December 31 National Review article, the Democrats’ emphasis on abortion and contraception this election cycle was successful in many respects. It likely succeeded in increasing turnout among pro-choice voters. It also likely made pro-choice voters more likely to cast their vote based on the abortion issue. However, the results of the Rasmussen survey provide little evidence that this fall’s election cycle substantially shifted public opinion in favor of legal abortion. 

Michael New — Michael New is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, an adjunct scholar at the CATO Institute, and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute. His research has focused on ...

Most Popular

White House

What Is Hillary Clinton Thinking?

When Homer Simpson looks in the mirror, he sees ripped chest muscles and arms like the trunks of beech trees. When Hillary Clinton looks in the mirror, she sees America’s sweetheart. She thinks: America adores me. She thinks: America already chose me to be president once! She thinks: Everyone is comparing me ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Grassley’s Kangaroo Court

So now it looks like next Thursday. On Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s manifestly meritorious nomination to the Supreme Court, what was supposed to be the vote out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this past Thursday now appears to be sliding into a hearing to be held next Thursday. Or, who knows, maybe a Thursday ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Censure Dianne Feinstein

Regardless of the fate of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, the Senate should censure the ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein. Her deception and maneuvering, condemned across the political spectrum, seriously interfered with the Senate’s performance of its constitutional duty to ... Read More
U.S.

Are We on the Verge of Civil War?

Americans keep dividing into two hostile camps. It seems the country is back to 1860 on the eve of the Civil War, rather than in 2018, during the greatest age of affluence, leisure, and freedom in the history of civilization. The ancient historian Thucydides called the civil discord that tore apart the ... Read More