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Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in Media, Politics, Society | 3 comments

Americans Do NOT “Narrowly Support” 20-Week Abortion Ban

Even if the National Journal claims that we do.

Ironically, the National Journal acknowledges in its lede (not its headline) that its survey shows a plurality support for banning abortions after 20 weeks.

But the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll shows that a plurality of Americans supports a ban on late abortions.

The lede refers to “late abortions” but the survey specifically asks about abortions at 20-weeks. Which is, for the math-challenged, 4.5 weeks months or mid-point in pregnancy.

And what’s this plurality of which they speak? 48% to 44% with 8% undecided.

Anyone want to guess at the margin of error for a survey of 1,005 adults? Do you think it is less than 2% (that’s the only way that the NJ’s claim could hold)?

If you said “yes” you’d be wrong.

Margin of error is +/-3.6%.

Between the undecideds and the margin of error, there is almost nothing definitive that can be said about this survey.

Except this.

It’s Too Close To Call.

By the way, the margin of error on all of the sub-groups that fill up the story will be much greater than this — probably in the 8-9% range. Which means that they are even less insightful.

But that didn’t stop other right-leaning websites from parroting the study:

national journal on abortion

  • Dear John McCormack (Weekly Standard):
    You write: “Majority of women support national ban on late-term abortion”

    According to the NJ, 50% of women support a 20-week abortion ban (the survey doesn’t use the phrase “late term abortion” which has no universally accepted meaning) and 6% are undecided. But if the margin of error were 3.6%, that means it’s possible that only 46% support the ban. Not a majority. However, because this is a population sub-group, the margin of error will be greater. NJ, of course, didn’t tell us what that figure is but it’s probably around 8-9%. So to legitimately credit a majority, 58% would need to support the ban. You can’t even get there with all the undecideds.

    Statistically, the survey results could look like this:
    Support: 41%; Oppose: 53%; 6% Undecided

  • Dear Ken Shepherd (News Busters):
    You write that “most young Americans support restricting abortion past the 20-week mark”

    According to the NJ, 52% of Americans age 18-29 support a 20-week abortion ban and 9% are undecided. You’ve got the same problem as Mr. McCormack.

    Statistically, the survey results could look like this:
    Support: 43%; Oppose: 48%; 9% Undecided

  • Dear Ed Morrissey (Hot Air):
    See comments to Mr. McCormack.

  • Dear WeaselZippers:
    Kudos for using “plurality” in your headline. Nevertheless, see comments to Mr. McCormack.

Moreover, the pollsters primed the responses by telling respondents that “supporters say the bill was necessary because a fetus can feel pain at that point in pregnancy.” This is in direct contrast to medical opinion (pdf), which is that if a fetus could feel pain it would not be until the third trimester.

FYI, here’s Frontline’s summary of Roe v Wade:

The decision held that the state could not prohibit abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy; in the second trimester, states could issue regulations “that are reasonably related to maternal health”; and in the final trimester, once the fetus is viable beyond the womb, the state could regulate or even prohibit abortion except in cases “where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.” (emphasis added)

And as a reminder, this is the historical chart:
gallup poll

Can we please start issuing fines for journalistic innumeracy?

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