Home Social Issues Two Polls, Two Completely Different Results on Virginia Abortion Clinic Regulations

Two Polls, Two Completely Different Results on Virginia Abortion Clinic Regulations


I’ve always heard that in polling, how the question is asked can make all the difference. Well, we now have a classic case of this in Virginia, specifically with regard to the abortion clinics issue. Check this out.

1. First, there’s the Quinnipiac Poll, which asked:

The new rules are the product of a new law in Virginia that reclassified abortion clinics as hospital facilities. According to the new regulations, all abortion clinics and physician offices providing abortions would have to meet specific building and safety requirements that until now, have only been required of hospitals; such as 250-square-foot operating rooms and specific ventilation systems. Do you approve or disapprove of this change that would require the state’s abortion clinics to be regulated like hospitals or don’t you know?

The results? 55% approved, 22% disapproved, and 23% didn’t know or didn’t answer. Also of interest, only 25% of Virginians say they’ve “heard or read anything about these additional regulations,” while 74% haven’t heard a thing (I wonder, of those 25%, how many have really focused on this issue).

2. Next, we’ve got the Virginia Bellweather Poll, conducted by Third Eye Strategies. The question is asked much differently:

Earlier this year the state legislature passed a law that required all clinics that provide abortion services to be regulated by the state the same way hospitals are. Supporters of this law say that this will improve the health and safety of women. Opponents of this law say that these clinics are already safe, regulated, and regularly inspected. This law does nothing more than restrict a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion services. Especially since no other doctor’s office that performs invasive medical procedures will be subject to these new regulations. Do you agree more with the supporters or opponents of this law? (If supporters/opponents) Do you strongly agree with the (supporters/opponents) of this law or only somewhat agree

Given that the question was asked very differently, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the results are also much different: 38% support, 44% oppose the law. Also, by a 45%-33% margin, respondents believe that “supporters of this new regulation of abortion services are trying use government regulations to effectively outlaw legal abortion services” rather than “guarantee that all women choosing to have an abortion do so in the safest possible environment.”

Bottom line: these two polls appear to provide strong evidence for the argument that it matters a great deal HOW you ask the questions! In this case, the results are wildly different on an important matter of public policy discussion in Virginia. Yet the media just reports these polls as if they’re hard science (while, on the other hand, NOT reporting hard science – like climatology – as hard science; crazy, huh?).

P.S. For more poll results, including “strong support for increased public transportation spending” and “opposition to uranium mining,” click here.

  • Dan Sullivan

    And know that it matters how you ask and also who you ask when you want a specific outcome.  

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    Much of the polling reported to us is wasted effort. As with statistics, polling can be twisted to show pretty much what you want as a result.

  • Tom in Loudoun

    I was one of the Virginians polled who had heard about the proposed regulations. There was a followup question (#28 if you scroll down almost to the end of the report): “Supporters of this proposed change say it is needed to safeguard the health of women who get abortions; Opponents say the changes are mainly expensive structural changes and are just an effort to force many clinics who cannot afford them out of business. Which comes closer to your view: These changes are necessary to improve women’s health, OR These changes are not necessary and are designed to put abortion clinics out of business.”

    Interesting that among those of us who had heard about the new regulations, 51 percent were against them and 43 percent were in favor.

  • Teddy Goodson

    are part of the equation as well, and not just in polls—- it is part of the political scene, where Republicans frame an issue, decide that it is be THE issue, and then set up choices in how we should deal with THE issue. The best recent example is how the national deficit suddenly replaced jobs as THE issue, and we were given only a carefully selected set of options: default or austerity (cut, cut, cut).

    Too bad no national Democrat called foul on this by attacking the premise of THE issue, and explaining not only was THE issue incorrectly (i.e., falsely) described/framed, but that we had way more than two choices, if we even chose to do something about it right then. Instead, we let ourselves be stampeded into the disgraceful spectacle of a hamstrung Congress because of the Republican  refusal to raise the debt ceiling until we gave in to their tantrum on other matters.