Social Issues, Spring 2013 Articles

Students lean in favor of abortion rights

The most recent Pack Poll survey asked students to give their opinion of abortion. Students were asked to respond to different wording approaches in an effort to capture attitudes towards this highly charged issue.

Knowledge of Roe is HighRoe v. Wade

In January 2013, Pew Research conducted a poll in which they found that 62% of Americans know that the U.S. Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision dealt with the issue of abortion. The other 38% either said they didn’t know, believed the decision dealt with desegregation, the death penalty, or environmental protection.

Pew also found that among people younger than 30 years old, the percentage of knowledge about Roe vs. Wade dropped tremendously, with only 44% knowing what the decision dealt with. N.C. State students do not follow this trend. When asked the same question, 89% of students knew Roe vs. Wade dealt with the issue of abortion.

Effects of being pushed to take a side 

The abortion debate tends to be filled with highly charged language. The Pack Poll sought to understand the effects of various wording in questions about abortion. The survey also forced some students to choose a side on the issue by not providing a “no opinion” option.

When given a “no opinion” option, and asked if they considered themselves to be anti-abortion or in favor of abortion rights 59% answered in favor of abortion rights, 27% said they were anti-abortion, and 14% said they had no opinion.  When respondents were forced to pick a side, the percentage saying they favor abortion rights increased just four percentage points to 63%, while the percentage of anti-abortion responses jumped 10 percentage points to 37%. This difference suggests that a majority of those without a strong opinion, or who do not want to express an opinion, lean against abortion rights.

Changing the language of the question, however, produces results inconsistent with that interpretation.  Some students were instead asked if they considered themselves to be “pro-choice” or “pro-life.”  In this version of the question, 55% said they were pro-choice, 36% said they were pro-life, and 9% said they had no opinion. When the no opinion option was removed the percentage of “pro-choice” respondents jumped nine percentage points to 64%, while the percentage of students calling themselves “pro-life” remained the same.

Morally wrong, yet legal

N.C. State students were also asked if they thought abortion was a moral issue, and if they thought abortion should be legal or illegal.  Despite a majority calling themselves “pro-choice” and favoring abortion rights, the survey found that 48% of students believe abortion is morally wrong.  Conversely, just 20% believe abortion is morally acceptable, while 32% said it was not a moral issue. Nevertheless, 59% said abortion should be legal in most or all cases. To N.C. State students, morality and legality seem to be somewhat unrelated.

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