The FINANCIAL — A majority of Americans, 59%, view Planned Parenthood favorably. Although still positive overall, Americans’ current opinions of Planned Parenthood are considerably less favorable than they were in 1993 — the last time Gallup asked about the organization — when 81% viewed it favorably.
Gallup has asked Americans about their views of Planned Parenthood three times: in 1989, in 1993 and in the Oct. 7-11 survey. The most recent poll comes amid significant focus on the organization in the news and throughout social media. The organization’s president recently testified on Capitol Hill, largely in response to an anti-abortion group’s release of secretly recorded videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood employees discussing potential sales of fetal tissue it recovers from abortions. Planned Parenthood denies these allegations, and has said that the videos were highly edited. The controversy has led to thus-far-unsuccessful efforts by Republicans in Congress to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
Republicans’ Views of Planned Parenthood Changed Most Significantly
The biggest shift in views of Planned Parenthood since 1993 has taken place among Republicans. In 2015, 35% of Republicans say they have a favorable view of the organization, about half of the 69% who had a favorable view in 1993. Independents are also significantly less positive today, with favorable views dropping from 83% to 56%, although independents’ views remain more positive than negative. Views of Planned Parenthood among Democrats have changed far less, dropping nine percentage points, from 91% to 82%.
Women have historically been more likely than men to view Planned Parenthood favorably. This continues to hold true in 2015, although favorability has dropped among both groups since 1993.
Opinions of Planned Parenthood are closely tied to Americans’ views on abortion, because Planned Parenthood provides abortions as well as other reproductive healthcare and sex education for men and women. Currently, 82% of Americans who describe themselves as “pro-choice” on the abortion issue view Planned Parenthood favorably, compared with 33% of those who self-identify as “pro-life.” Gallup did not ask the pro-choice/pro-life item in 1993, so it is not possible to know how these opinions may have changed.
Interestingly, 42% of pro-choice Americans have very favorable views of Planned Parenthood, almost identical to the 41% of pro-life Americans who have a very unfavorable view — showing how polarized Americans with differing views of abortion are about the organization.
Planned Parenthood’s image among U.S. adults has worsened since 1993. However, absent a more recent reading, the precise effect of the current controversy on Americans’ views is unclear. While Republicans have always been less likely than Democrats to have favorable views of Planned Parenthood, the gap has widened significantly since the early 1990s.
This may have been the result of the politicization of Planned Parenthood as well as increased media attention to proposed changes in U.S. and state abortion laws. For example, in May 1993, Congress passed a law that legalized fetal tissue donations after abortions. At the time, many Republicans supported this law. Today, several of those same Republicans were among those pushing to defund Planned Parenthood. The organization only recently announced that it would no longer receive compensation for the medical cost of providing these fetal tissue donations after abortions.
Gallup has observed a similar pattern of party polarization on other issues, including attitudes about global warming and labor unions, to name two examples. While Republican House members and senators’ actions and words regarding Planned Parenthood certainly may resonate with their base, they are facing a general public that, as a whole, still views the organization more favorably than unfavorably.