Television anchors must compress complicated subjects into simple sentences, but on Friday night NBC's Brian Williams delivered too simple of a presumption when he set up a story, on Rudy Giuliani's latest attempt to explain his abortion position, by trying to paint Republicans as out of the mainstream as he asserted that “most Americans believe a woman has a right to an abortion. Most Republicans do not.” While it's true that most don't want abortion completely banned under all circumstances, the majority favor restrictions on such a “right” and only 16 percent, according to a February Washington Post poll, want it “legal in all cases.” And interestingly, the latest abortion poll on the PollingReport.com's abortion page, a May 4-6 survey by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, discovered that 50 percent identified themselves as “pro-life” compared to a minority of 45 percent who called themselves “pro-choice.” NBC's own late April poll found that, by a fairly solid 53 to 34 percent, most agreed with the Supreme Court's decision upholding the federal law banning “partial-birth” abortions.
Brian Williams set up the May 11 NBC Nightly News story from David Gregory:
“Now to the big political story of the week, having to do with the leading GOP candidate for the President's job. Most Americans believe a woman has a right to an abortion. Most Republicans do not. Rudy Giuliani is running as a Republican with a pro-abortion rights record which he tried to explain again today.”
ABC's World News also aired a piece by Jake Tapper on the same subject. Charles Gibson introduced it:
“Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani gave a major speech today. In it, he reaffirmed his support of abortion rights. That is not something you normally hear from a Republican presidential candidate. And it raises the question of whether he could be the first Republican presidential nominee to favor a woman's right to choose since abortion became a political issue.”
The May 4-6 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll (PDF of its results) asked: “With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life” 50 percent responded “pro-life” and 45 percent answered “pro-choice.”
A February 22-25 Washington Post survey asked: “Do you think abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases, or illegal in all cases?” 16 percent replied “legal in all cases,” 39 percent “legal in most cases,” 31 percent “illegal in most cases” and 12 percent “illegal in all cases.”
An April 20-23 NBC/News Wall Street Journal poll asked: “As you may know, the Supreme Court recently upheld a law that makes the procedure commonly known as a partial birth abortion illegal. Do you favor or oppose this ruling by the Supreme Court?” Favor: 53 percent; oppose: 34 percent.