Is America becoming more prolife? A new poll by Gallup says so. The poll, released on the Friday before President Obama addressed Notre Dame University, thrilled the anti-abortion movement—and offered Republicans their first glimmer of hope in months.
But the poll is wrong. Worse, it’s misleading—and threatens to send Republicans careening in precisely the worst possible direction in pursuit of votes they will not find.
Charles Franklin of Pollster.com explains the poll’s big technical error. Gallup oversampled Republicans. At a time when only 1 in 5 Americans identifies as Republican, 32 percent of the respondents in Gallup’s survey group identified themselves as Republican. Franklin offers some interesting explanations of how this oversampling could have occurred. But what matters most are the consequences.
As the Republican Party shrinks, it becomes more conservative. Today’s shriveled GOP is much more prolife than the robust GOP of years past. So if you oversample Republicans, you are oversampling prolifers. Sure enough, when you look at Gallup’s breakdown of its results, all the rise in anti-abortion feeling is concentrated among self-identified Republicans.
To paraphrase Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”: The prolife movement isn’t bigger—it is the Republican Party that has got small.
Hee. David Frum funny.
This leads to the special danger the (mis)information in the Gallup poll presents to Republicans. As multiple polls show, Republican appeal has drooped to levels not seen since the aftermath of Watergate, maybe not since the 1930s. Those Republicans who remain committed to the party are, as the abortion poll suggests, the most conservative—especially the most socially conservative. Very understandably, they wish to believe that the party can recover by focusing most on people like themselves. (It takes very little evidence to persuade people to do what they want to do anyway.)
Yet a strategy that emphasizes abortion and other family life issues can only lead Republicans to greater difficulty. The prolife segment of American opinion is disproportionately black and Hispanic. (Hispanics are almost 10 points more prolife than whites.) Unfortunately, as repeated disappointment should by now have taught Republicans, abortion is just not a voting issue for these voters. They vote for their pocketbooks, as poorer people of all races usually do.
Yes! Teh base! Teh base! Keep pandering to the base!