“What videos?” seems to be the reaction of most Americans to the series of undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood over the past six months, according to a new LifeWay Research survey.
The videos made national headlines, provoked outrage in Congress and prompted investigations in about a dozen states. In showing undercover activists from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) discussing with Planned Parenthood officials possible payments for donated fetal remains, CMP contends the videos show Planned Parenthood illegally selling fetal remains. Planned Parenthood denies the claim.
The LifeWay Research phone survey of 1,000 Americans found that seven out of 10 are either unaware of the videos (43 percent) or have not spoken out after seeing them (27 percent).
Among those who are aware of the videos, LifeWay Research found that, overall, about one in five Americans (18 percent) spoke out against Planned Parenthood after the videos became public. One in eight (12 percent) spoke in support Planned Parenthood.
“Given the serious accusations against Planned Parenthood – that they sold baby parts – it is surprising how few Americans responded,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research.
The survey was completed in September at a time the videos received renewed attention during a debate among Republican presidential candidates.
“The videos caught many people’s attention, even prompting Hillary Clinton to call them disturbing, yet Americans remain quite divided on abortion,” Stetzer said. “That division appears to be reflected even in their views on such videos.”
Researchers found religion plays a role in how Americans responded. Self-identified evangelicals (29 percent) and Christians (23 percent) are more likely to have criticized Planned Parenthood. Nones – those who claim no religious affiliation – are more likely to have supported Planned Parenthood (17 percent).
Americans with evangelical beliefs (27 percent) and weekly churchgoers (also 27 percent) are more likely to speak out against Planned Parenthood than other Americans.
Researchers also found regional differences in responses. About a third of Midwesterners (34 percent) are unaware of the videos. That figure jumps to about half for Americans in the South (46 percent) and West (48 percent).
Also, Midwesterners are most likely to have spoken out against Planned Parenthood (21 percent) as well as in support of Planned Parenthood (17 percent). Southerners (20 percent) were more likely to have spoken out against Planned Parenthood than those from the Northeast (13 percent).
The largest differences in awareness of the videos occur across racial/ethnic groups. One out of three whites (32 percent) are unaware of the videos, but more than six in 10 African Americans (60 percent), Hispanics (66 percent), and people of other ethnicities (61 percent) do not know about them.
Among other findings:
Men and women had similar responses to the survey, as did Catholics and Protestants.
Americans over 65 (25 percent) are more likely to have spoken out against Planned Parenthood than those 18 to 24 (7 percent). Americans who are 18 to 24 (18 percent) are more likely to have supported Planned Parenthood than those who are 25 to 34 (9 percent), 35 to 44 (5 percent) or 55 to 64 (9 percent).
The reaction to the videos may provide a lesson to pro-life groups, Stetzer said.
While the videos seemed to connect with churchgoers, older and white Americans and those in the Midwest and South, they missed younger Americans and those from diverse backgrounds.
“Through social media it is easy to assume everyone in America is having the same conversation,” Stetzer said. “But these results show that is not the case.”
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 14-28, 2015. The calling utilized Random Digit Dialing. Fifty percent of completes were among landlines and 50 percent among cellphones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.6 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine [factsandtrends.net], published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)