The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby points out that most Americans’ views on abortion don’t fully align with either Republican or Democratic party platforms:
Does the Democratic Party uphold these mainstream positions? On the contrary: It rejects every one of them.
Jacoby draws these conclusions from a “compilation of decades of polling data” entitled “Attitudes on Abortion.” The report’s summary states,
Although opinion about abortion is stable, it is also deeply ambivalent. Americans are at once pro-life and pro-choice. On the one hand, substantial numbers tell the pollsters that abortion is an act of murder. On the other, they say that the decision to have an abortion should be a personal choice. Those two views are fundamentally contradictory, yet many Americans hold them within themselves. They see no reason to resolve the tensions in their own positions. They believe in the sanctity of life and in the importance of individual choice.
How is it possible for so many people to essentially believe that an act of murder should be a personal choice?
Perhaps it’s because, as the report explains, some 90% of Americans have never been active in the abortion debate. Those of us who have argued about this ad nauseum have been pushed to look further into legal precedents, philosophical perspectives, and so on. Hopefully we’ve also been compelled to consider the inevitably complicated ramifications of abortion policy proposals (whether to restrict abortion or maintain the status quo). In contrast, I imagine the topic of abortion–much less all the details it can involve–come up relatively rarely for most people.
I’m curious to know the average American’s “abortion literacy.” What do people believe our current abortion laws permit and restrict? How often do they believe the hard cases (i.e. life-threatening pregnancies or pregnancies resulting from rape) occur? What resources do they think are available to women with unplanned pregnancies? Why do they think women choose abortion?
How close are the average American’s expectations to reality? If most people were as informed as those active in the abortion debate, how would that affect popular perspective on abortion?