I was just thinking yesterday: Despite Obama’s disastrous Iran deal, Trumpmania wrecking the GOP’s presidential field, and the fact that I’ll be stuck watching the season finale of “True Detective” on Sunday night, life hasn’t been nearly as discouraging as this eeyore would like lately.
Fortunately, there’s always good ol’ YouGov to give me a shot of despair when I need one.
Barely a flutter in the polls despite weeks of news about PP doctors chattering about selling dismembered baby parts. There seemed to be two likely explanations for that. One: The word wasn’t getting out to the broader public. This is a story that most mainstream reporters are verrrrry uncomfortable with given how it challenges the orthodoxy of their preferred political party. They’re not going to cover it, and you can’t move the polls if the only place to find this story is on right-wing blogs. Two: Even among those who have heard about the videos, the absence of any smoking gun of criminal behavior is giving PP fans a cognitive “out” to continue supporting them. Sure, they’ll crush a baby’s chest cavity just right to preserve the liver for sale, and sure, it’s unclear precisely how well informed its patients are about that, but there’s no law against it if it’s for research purposes, is there? Well, there you go. What’s on TV?
Mollie Hemingway argues that the first explanation accounts for the stasis in public opinion. I’m sure that’s true — but not to the extent we’d all like. Behold:
Only 30 percent have heard a lot about the PP videos — but frankly, that’s more than I would have guessed, and yet all we see is a measly five-point shift in public opinion against PP since last year. Another 38 percent have heard “a little” about the videos. “A little” can mean anything, but even something as small as a headline in this case — “Planned Parenthood Doctors Caught on Camera Discussing Sale of Baby Parts” — could be shocking enough to move opinion. And yet … just five points. Huh. When asked if they’d seen at least a little of the videos themselves, nearly half (45 percent) said yes; again, I’d guess that if you’ve seen a clip, it’s probably a clip of the more shocking stuff, like one of the doctors joking about buying a Lamborghini from the proceeds of sale of baby parts. And yet … just five points. The good news is that, at that rate, saturation media coverage of PP would doubtless put a real dent in the group’s public approval. The bad news is that even 30 percent awareness, I would have thought, would put a real dent in it. Hasn’t happened. How come?
Maybe the other explanation accounts for it. Say what you will about PP but they can claim (for now) that they weren’t breaking any laws. There’s a problem with that theory too, though:
A majority of those who’ve heard “a little” about the videos think Planned Parenthood did break the law. And yet … just five points. Still 50/36 in terms of overall favorability (45/30 in the recent NBC/WSJ poll) and 56/32 among women. If you think Mitch McConnell’s reluctant to shut down the government over PP now, wait until he sees these numbers.
Let me gently suggest an additional explanation for why the numbers haven’t moved much: Maybe most Planned Parenthood fans don’t care what the group is doing with dead babies.
We’re talking about the biggest abortion provider in America, responsible for 40 percent of all terminations by some estimates, and among those who view the group favorably, abortion doesn’t even crack the top three of what it’s best known for. You can explain that any way you like — as outright denial, as ignorance of how huge PP’s abortion business is, as a success of Democratic/feminist spin about what “women’s health” requires, as a legit assessment made by people who’ve used PP’s services, or as some mix of all of them. Either way, it may be that most PP supporters value the rest of their operation so highly that they’re willing to give them carte blanche on the less … pleasant aspects of their business. Even for an eeyore, that’s a depressing conclusion.