Quick question: Which procedure is safer — an abortion or a wisdom tooth extraction?
I won't tell you the answer, because first you should take the quiz below. But these are the types of questions we asked in a recent poll we conducted with PerryUndem, where we asked 1,060 registered voters about abortion.
One thing we learned: About 60 percent of voters underestimated how many women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Again, I won't spoil the quiz with the exact number.
Take the test first, and let's rehash below:
A lot of people don't call themselves pro-choice or pro-life
Even though the majority of voters don't want Roe v. Wade overturned, voters aren't necessarily staunchly supportive of abortion. Rather, poll after poll, including ours, shows that only about one-third of voters label themselves as pro-choice, and only about a quarter label themselves as pro-life.
Everyone else considers themselves either both pro-choice and pro-life, neither of those labels, or are just not sure.
In other words, people's feelings about abortion are likely more nuanced than politicians and the media make them out to be.
Abortion is a lot more common than Americans think it is
Abortion is one of the most common procedures in America. About one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Think about that: If you're in a room full of 10 women, it's likely that about three of them have had or will have an abortion at some point in their life.
But since the 1980s, abortion rates have been falling. Only 16 percent of people we polled thought that abortion has become less common in the past decade; everyone else thought it was about the same (33 percent), more common (24 percent), or they weren't sure (26 percent).
Abortion is way safer than you think
- The risk of death from giving birth is 14 times higher than that with abortion. But only 19 percent of respondents thought giving birth was more dangerous.
- The risk of complication from a wisdom tooth extraction is twice as high as it is with abortion; 2.1 percent of abortion patients have complications, compared with 4.6 percent of wisdom tooth patients. Both are relatively safe procedures, and complications are typically minor for abortion (often cramping after the procedure) and for wisdom teeth removal (inflammation is a common side effect). Death from either is very, very rare but has infrequently occurred.
- Part of that confusion may be because most people don't know how invasive the most common type of abortion procedure is. According to Planned Parenthood, the most common in-clinic abortions are aspiration abortion and dilation and evacuation — neither of which requires incision or surgery. And aspiration abortion, the most common procedure, only takes five to 10 minutes.
Even with poor knowledge, most people don't want to overturn Roe v. Wade
Abortion has become one of the most divisive issues in American politics, and we often hear prominent Republicans saying they want to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that gave women the constitutional right to an abortion.
But according to our poll, 70 percent of people do not want Roe v. Wade overturned.
You can read more about our new abortion poll today on Vox.com. There are stories about how Americans perceive abortion — and what they think about the upcoming Supreme Court case. You can see the full topline results of our poll here.
PerryUndem Research/Communication conducted the survey among n = 1,060 registered voters 18 and older nationwide, January 20 through 27, 2016. The survey was administered among a nationally representative sample of voters, using GfK's KnowledgePanel. The margin of error is +/- 3.7 percentage points. Some results do not add to 100 percent as a result of rounding. Topline results are available here.
Correction: A previous version of this story said 19 percent of people thought giving birth was safer than abortion, but the poll found the opposite: 19 percent of people thought birth was more dangerous — which is the right answer.