Public narrowly against defunding Planned Parenthood

September 22, 2015, 7:25 PM GMT+0

The public narrowly opposes defunding the organization and half the country has a positive view of Planned Parenthood

Americans generally like Planned Parenthood – at least they did before Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina raised the subject of the sting videos (showing Planned Parenthood leaders talking about the harvesting of fetal organs for research) at last week’s GOP presidential debate. Those videos once again focused attention on the Congressional attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, which may include the possibility of a government shutdown.

The latest Economist/YouGov poll finds Americans narrowly oppose defunding Planned Parenthood. However, one in five Americans would support a government shutdown in order to defund the organization. Opinions are definitely partisan: nearly half of Republicans would shut down the government in order to defund Planned Parenthood. Just 8% of Democrats would.

Overall, nearly as many would shut down the government in order to not defund Planned Parenthood as would be willing to shut it down to defund the organization. Catholics are closely divided on the matter of defunding, though their overall opinions mask a large gap between churchgoing and non-churchgoing Catholics. Half of observant Catholics would defund Planned Parenthood; a plurality of those who don’t attend Mass regularly would not.

Fiorina’s comments also generated controversy over whether what she reported as seeing in the videos actually appeared in them. In this poll, viewers draw different conclusions based on their pre-existing opinions. In addition, groups that are opposed to abortion, like Republicans and conservatives, are more likely to have heard about the videos and more likely to have seen them. More Republicans than Democrats and more than twice as many conservatives than liberals have watched the videos.

The reaction to the videos among viewers also divides along those lines of party and ideology. More than three in four Republican and conservative viewers think the videos show that Planned Parenthood officials broke the law; an equivalent proportion of Democrats and liberals who have watched the video disagree.

For many in the overall public, Planned Parenthood is about something other than abortions. More than half associate the organization with contraception; more than four in ten with pregnancy testing, and more than a quarter each with testing for STDs and sex education. But 48% also associate Planned Parenthood with abortion services. For Republicans and conservatives, however, abortion services is the main mention of what Planned Parenthood does. There has not been much change in this assessment in the last few months.

And there continues to be little change in the overall opinion of Planned Parenthood. Although there was a slight increase in unfavorable opinions just after the videos emerged, there has been no change since then. More Americans have a favorable opinion than an unfavorable one, though partisan differences are large.

See the Economist/YouGov results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.