Public Opinion Quarterly

Published by Oxford University Press

Online ISSN: 1537-5331


Print ISSN: 0033-362X


Trends in Attitudes Toward Abortion: 1972-1976
  • Article

February 1979


30 Reads

Lucky M. Tedrow


E R Mahoney
Trends in attitudes toward abortion are examined over the 1972-1976 period. While an overall tendency of more liberal attitudes is noted, important differences over time are apparent by gender, education, occupational prestige, and religiosity. PIP Analysis of data from the National Opinion Research Center's General Social Survey conducted annually from 1972-76 revealed trends in attitudes toward abortion. The following 6 questions were asked. Should a person obtain an abortion if: 1) there is chance of defect in the baby; 2) a woman doesn't want any more and is married; 3) if the woman's health is jeopardized; 4) if the family has a low income and cannot afford any more children; 5) if she becomes pregnant because of rape; or 6) if she is not married and does not want to marry the father. The overall trend showed an increase in approval for each of the 6 reasons for an abortion. There was an increase by 3 percentage points for each of the traditionally hard line reasons: health, rape, and defect; and an increase of 3, 6, and 6 percentage points respectively for the soft line reasons: poor, single, and no more. In 1972 males were more approving of abortion than females; 1976 saw an increase in approval for men. There was more disparity between the sexes in 1976 than in 1975. Protestants were consistently more liberal than Catholics. Protestant increases in approval exceeded Catholic increases for rape and defect for males, and health for females. The only decrease in approval of abortion for 1972-76 was for male Catholics for rape, -3 percentage points.

The Implicit Assumptions of Television Research: An Analysis of the 1982 NIMH Report on Television and Behavior

February 1983


39 Reads

The authors analyze some of the assumptions underlying most current research on television. They emphasize the dependence on (1) an individual rather than an institutional level of analysis; (2) a model of research utilization that pays little explicit attention to where sources of leverage lie for changes in programming; (3) extremely simple models of the selection processes associated with different levels of television viewing; and (4) uncritical appraisals of the consequences of effects that many would call small or modest. These issues are illustrated by a general discussion of the NIMH report on Television and Behavior and specific discussion of “mainstreaming” and the effects of television violence. In 1972, POQ's editors invited Leo Bogart to prepare a extended review article of the Surgeon-Generars Study of Television and Social Behavior (POQ 36:491–521). When the 10-year follow-up study was released by NIMH in 1982, the editors asked Thomas D. Cook, a distinguished psychologist noted for his research on television, to perform the same function.

Public Opinion About Aids Before and After the 1988 U.S. Government Public Information Campaign

February 1991


41 Reads

In October, 1987, the Centers for Disease Control mounted a massive public information campaign to alert the public to the dangers of AIDS and to provide information about its transmission and prevention. Using data from two Gallup surveys, one just before the campaign began and the other several months after its conclusion, we examine changes in public information and misinformation about transmission, in concern about AIDS as an epidemic, and in reported behavior to avoid exposure to AIDS. We conclude that although some changes in knowledge did take place, these were essentially a continuation of trends beginning before the public information campaign and continuing well after its conclusion. For these and other reasons, we argue that the effects of the campaign on public information were minimal. However, between 1987 and 1988 there was a small but statistically significant increase in reported condom use, an increase paralleled by increased condom sales between 1986 and 1988. In addition, there was a substantial increase in the number of people expressing concern about AIDS as an epidemic for the population at large. The campaign may well have contributed to both of these changes.

Table 1 . Trends in Claimed Awareness of Genetic Testing 
Table 2 . Multinomial Regression Models for Changes in Awareness of Ge- netic Testing 
Table 3 . Trends in Preferences for Prenatal Genetic Testing 
Table 4 . Multinomial Regression Models for Changes in Preferences for Genetic Testing 
Table 5 . Trends in Preferences for Abortion in Case of Fetal Defect 


Trends in U.S. Attitudes Toward Genetic Testing, 1990-2004
  • Article
  • Full-text available

August 2008


79 Reads

Eleanor Singer


Mick P Couper





This research note examines changes in beliefs and attitudes over a 14-year period, from 1990, when the revolution in genomic science was just beginning, to 2004, the most recent time point for which data are available. The analysis makes clear that there is no simple causal path from changes in technology to changes in values and beliefs, at least over the period of time during which we have been able to track this process. At the same time, claimed awareness about the new technology is slowly and gradually diffusing throughout the society.

Same-Gender Sex Among U.S. Adults Trends Across the Twentieth Century and During the 1990s

September 2005


48 Reads

Trends in reporting of same-gender sex are assessed using data from the 1998–2002 General Social Surveys (Ns = 9,487 males and 12,336 females). Analyses indicate that the reported prevalence of female-female sexual contact increased substantially and monotonically across twentieth-century birth cohorts, rising from 1.6 percent (Standard error [SE] = 0.60) for the cohort of U.S. women born prior to 1920 to 6.9 percent (SE = 0.81) for women born in 1970 and afterward. Increases in the reported prevalence of female-female contacts also occurred within the 1990s. These trends persist when statistical controls are introduced for changes in attitudes toward same-gender sexual behavior. No parallel trend is observed in the reporting of male-male sexual contacts during adulthood, although the proportion of U.S. men reporting such contacts in the past year and in the past five years increased during the 1990s.

Probabilistic Polling And Voting In The 2008 Presidential Election Evidence From The American Life Panel

August 2010


58 Reads

This article reports new empirical evidence on probabilistic polling, which asks persons to state in percent-chance terms the likelihood that they will vote and for whom. Before the 2008 presidential election, seven waves of probabilistic questions were administered biweekly to participants in the American Life Panel (ALP). Actual voting behavior was reported after the election. We find that responses to the verbal and probabilistic questions are well-aligned ordinally. Moreover, the probabilistic responses predict voting behavior beyond what is possible using verbal responses alone. The probabilistic responses have more predictive power in early August, and the verbal responses have more power in late October. However, throughout the sample period, one can predict voting behavior better using both types of responses than either one alone. Studying the longitudinal pattern of responses, we segment respondents into those who are consistently pro-Obama, consistently anti-Obama, and undecided/vacillators. Membership in the consistently pro- or anti-Obama group is an almost perfect predictor of actual voting behavior, while the undecided/vacillators group has more nuanced voting behavior. We find that treating the ALP as a panel improves predictive power: current and previous polling responses together provide more predictive power than do current responses alone.

Health professionals' attitudes toward abortion

February 1974


18 Reads

Attitudes toward abortion, as obtained in a 1971 nationwide survey, are presented for students and faculty in nursing, medicine, and social work, and are compared to attitudes of the general population. Attitudinal differences are examined among the professions, between students and faculty, and in terms of religion. The results reveal implications for the abortion-related services provided by health professionals.

Table 2 . Race, Abortion Attitudes, and Multivariate Controls 
Race Differences in Abortion Attitudes: Some Additional Evidence

February 1990


209 Reads

Although Combs and Welch reported a trend of decreasing racial difference in abortion attitudes, Hall and Ferree used data from the 1982 General Social Survey to argue that racial difference were not declining. This paper updates this debate through the 1988 General Social Survey and concludes that racial differences have indeed declined over time. Morever, when new religious items introduced in the 1984 survey are included in the multivariate analysis, blacks are not significantly different from whites in their support of legal abortion. This finding obscures a more intersting pattern, however, of offsetting, statistically significant racial differences among respondents of the same gender—black men are significantly less supportive of a abortion than white men, and black women are significantly more supportive than white women.

When parties and candidates collide: citizen perception of house candidates' positions on abortion

February 2001


14 Reads

When candidates assume issue positions opposite those of their sponsoring political party do citizens recognize these positions? Relatedly, what role do candidates' actual issue positions play in citizens' perceptions of their issue positions? Examining citizens' perceptions of 1996 and 1998 House candidates' position on abortion, this research finds that citizens' perceptions are shaped largely by partisan and, to a lesser extent, gender stereotypes. However, candidates' individuating positions on abortion influence perceptions of the candidates' position, but the effects are considerably stronger for perceptions of Republican candidates. Democratic candidates are likely to adopt anti-abortion positions in districts characterized by lower than average levels of political awareness and education, reducing the likelihood their party-contradicting position is accurately perceived. In contrast, Republican candidates adopt a pro-choice position in districts characterized by high education and political awareness, increasing the likelihood their position is accurately perceived.

Race Differences in Abortion Attitudes

February 1986


38 Reads

Public opinion surveys since 1965 find that black respondents are less in favor of legal abortion than white respondents. Using the 1982 NORC General Social Survey, we replicate and expand one of the few studies (Combs and Welch, 1982) that examined the structure and determinants of prochoice attitudes of blacks and whites. Our major findings are (1) the racial difference in prochoice attitude is as great in 1982 as in the 1970s, (2) contrary to the suggestion of Combs and Welch, the demographic and attitudinal determinants of abortion attitudes differ for blacks and for whites, and (3) for those respondents who differentiate their acceptance of legal abortion, the pattern of prochoice attitudes also differs by race.

Same-gender sex in the United States - Impact of T-ACASI on prevalence estimates

June 2006


154 Reads

Well-conducted telephone surveys provide an economical means of estimating the prevalence of sexual and reproductive behaviors in a population. There is, however, a nontrivial potential for bias since respondents must report sensitive information to a human interviewer. The National STD and Behavior Measurement Experiment (NSBME) evaluates a new survey technology-telephone audio computer-assisted self-interviewing (T-ACASI)-that eliminates this requirement. The NSBME embedded a randomized experiment in a survey of probability samples of 1,543 U.S. and 744 Baltimore adults ages 18 to 45. Compared with NSBME respondents interviewed by human interviewers, respondents interviewed by T-ACASI were 1.5 to 1.6 times more likely to report same-gender sexual attraction, experience, and genital contact. The impact of T-ACASI was more pronounced (odds ratio = 2.5) for residents of locales that have historically been less tolerant of same-gender sexual behaviors and for respondents in households with children (odds ratio = 3.0).

Table 3 . Endorsement of Statement That Children Sometimes Need a "Good, Hard Spanking" by Mode of Interview and Race: Analysis of Unweighted Data from the NSBME 
Table 4 . Preferred Racial Composition of Neighborhood by Interview Mode for Black and White Respondents: Analysis of Unweighted Data from the NSBME 
Table 5 . Endorsement of Statement That There Is No Real Risk in Occasional Use of Marijuana by Mode of Interview and Race: Analysis of Unweighted Data from the NSBME 
Impact of T-ACASI on Survey Measurements of Subjective Phenomena

June 2009


215 Reads

Numerous studies have shown that audio-computer-assisted self-interviewing (audio-CASI) and telephone audio-CASI (T-ACASI) technologies yield increased reporting of sensitive and stigmatized objective phenomena such as sexual and drug use behaviors. Little attention has been given, however, to the impact of these technologies on the measurement of subjective phenomena (attitudes, opinions, feelings, etc.). This article reports results for the seven subjective measurements included in the National STD and Behavior Measurement Experiment (NSBME). NSBME drew probability samples of USA and Baltimore adults (Ns = 1,543 and 744, respectively) and randomized these respondents to be interviewed by T-ACASI or telephone interviewer-administered questioning (T-IAQ). Response distributions for all subjective measurements obtained by T-ACASI diverge from those obtained by human telephone interviewers. For six of our seven ordinal-scaled measurements, this divergence involved shifting responses directionally along the ordinal scale, as opposed to a nondirectional redistribution among response categories. When interviewed by T-ACASI, respondents were more supportive of traditional gender roles and corporal punishment, less supportive of integrated neighborhoods and same-gender sex, and more likely to agree that occasional marijuana use is harmless and to describe themselves as attractive. The majority of these results suggest that telephone survey respondents may provide more "tolerant" and "socially liberal" responses to human interviewers than to a T-ACASI computer. Similarly, although the evidence is not entirely consistent, the impact of T-ACASI appears to increase with the social vulnerability of the population surveyed.

The accessibility and applicability of knowledge: Predicting context effects in National Surveys

February 2000


22 Reads

Using data from the National Health Interview Survey on Disability from 1994 and 1995, this research demonstrates that the size of accessibility effects (increased likelihood of using information activated by initial questions in responding to subsequent questions) can be modeled as a function of the applicability of the initial to the subsequent questions. When respondents reported a disability and were asked about the main condition causing the disability, they were more likely to report conditions they had been asked about earlier in the interview than alternative conditions. This accessibility effect was inversely related to the effect on reports of "other" or unclassifiable conditions. The more reports of primed conditions, the fewer reports of unclassifiable conditions. A log-linear model of the accessibility bias fit the data for all disabilities. For reports of specific conditions, a measure of the applicability of context accounted for 74.4 percent of the variance of the accessibility bias; for unclassifiable or "other" conditions, it accounted for 61 percent. When limited to "well-defined" disabilities, applicability accounted for 91.9 percent of the variance (a multiple correlation of.96). Finally, models of the context effects derived from the 1994 data were tested against the actual effects for the 1995 data. The correlation between predicted and actual effects was.80 across disabilities. The theoretical and the practical implications of the findings are discussed.

Measuring Satisfaction With Organizations: Predictions from Information Accessibility

February 1993


25 Reads

The study explored the process through which customers assess their satisfaction with service organizations. Our theoretical analysis suggests that when a general satisfaction question appears after questions about specific domains were asked (SG order), the earlier questions increase the accessibility of both positive and negative information. In contrast, when a general satisfaction question appears prior to any other question (GS order), negative information is more accessible than positive information. On the basis of these differences in accessibility we predicted (1) greater asymmetry in the impact of positive and negative information on the general satisfaction response in the GS order, (2) higher correspondence between domain-specific satisfaction and general satisfaction in the SG order, and (3) higher levels of general satisfaction in the SG order. These predictions were supported in analyses of customers' responses in a national survey of satisfaction with the Israel Telecommunication Corporation (Bezeq).

Table 3 . Zero-Order Correlation Matrix of 12 Exogenous and Endogenous Respondent Characteristic Variables 
Table 5 . (Continued) 
Table 6 . (Continued) 
Table 6 . Effects on Assessment of Relative Liability of Host as Compared with Guest/Driver of Factors Presented in Vignettes 
Liability of commercial and social hosts for alcohol-related injuries: a national survey of accountability norms and judgments

February 2001


61 Reads

Legal standards for liability of commercial sellers and social providers of alcoholic beverages are affected by social norms concerning accountability and responsibility. Using a nationwide probability sample telephone survey of 7,021 U.S. residents, we conducted a randomized experiment in which each subject was asked to respond to multiple vignettes. The vignettes told stories of drinking situations, systematically varying dimensions concerning age of drinker, commercial versus social settings, amount of alcohol consumed, history of previous behavior, and seriousness of damage or injury following drinking. Analyses involved linear mixed (i.e., random effects) model regressions, using responses to vignettes as the outcome variable, controlling for a series of sociodemographic, behavioral, and attitudinal measures. Results showed that age of drinker (young), setting (bar), and previous behavior (history of irresponsibility) were most strongly associated with harsher judgments of civil liability. Citizens' multiple standards for assigning legal liability and implications for public policy are discussed.

Table 2 
Does Telephone Audio Computer-Assisted Self-Interviewing Improve the Accuracy of Prevalence Estimates of Youth Smoking?: Evidence from the UMass Tobacco Study

December 2004


63 Reads

Despite their advantage for obtaining representative samples of adolescents, telephone surveys have been regarded as inferior for collecting data on youth tobacco use because they yield lower estimates than school-based self-administered surveys. Although no gold standard for smoking estimates exists, the lower estimates in telephone surveys have been attributed to underreporting due to youths' concern about parents or others overhearing their responses. Telephone audio computer-assisted self-interviewing (T-ACASI) is a cost-effective method for obtaining a representative sample of youths and provides increased privacy for the respondent. We hypothesized that using T-ACASI would encourage youths to more fully report smoking behavior compared to traditional interviewer-administered telephone methods. Our analysis further assessed whether respondent age, gender, race/ethnicity, and parental attitude toward smoking moderated the relationship between survey mode and smoking reports. Using data from a statewide tobacco use survey that randomly assigned youth respondents to either T-ACASI or interviewer-administered mode, we found youths were more likely to report smoking behaviors in T-ACASI mode and that this was especially true for girls, particularly those who believed their parents would disapprove strongly of their smoking. Findings suggest that traditional telephone surveys may underestimate smoking prevalence in most girls by a factor of two, and that a technique for insuring privacy for these respondents is an important component of effective telephone survey methodology.

Adolescents' Inconsistency in Self-Reported Smoking: A Comparison of Reports in School and in Household Settings

February 2008


114 Reads

Extent and sources of inconsistency in self-reported cigarette smoking between self-administered school surveys and household interviews was examined in two longitudinal multiethnic adolescent samples, the urban Transition to Nicotine Dependence in Adolescence (TND) (N = 832) and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) (N = 4,414). Inconsistency was defined as a positive report of smoking in school followed by a negative report in the household. Smoking questions were ascertained with paper-and-pencil instruments (PAPI-SAQ) in school in both studies, and computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) in TND but audio computer-assisted self-interviewing (ACASI) in Add Health in the household. In TND, 23.5 percent of youths who reported smoking lifetime and 20.4 percent of those who reported smoking the last 12 months in the school survey reported in the household never having smoked; in Add Health, the latter was 8.6 percent. Logistic regressions identified five common correlates of inconsistency across the two studies: younger age, ethnic minority status, lesser involvement in deviant activities, having nonsmoking parents and friends. In TND, interviewing of youth and parent by the same interviewer increased inconsistent reporting. Matching the definition of inconsistent reporting and the age, gender and race/ethnic distributions of TND on an urban Add Health subsample reduced the predicted rate of inconsistency in TND. The estimated bias attributable to CAPI compared with ACASI methodology did not reach significance in the aggregated matched samples suggesting that irrespective of administration mode, household interviews decrease reporting of smoking, especially among younger, minority and more conventional youths embedded in a social network of nonsmokers.

Figure 1. Chronology of Rock the Vote pledge cards  
Figure 2. Arrival at sample of survey recipients  
Rocking the Vote: Using Personalized Messages to Motivate Voting among Young Adults

February 2000


375 Reads

We examined a nationwide effort to encourage young adults to vote in the 1996 U.S. presidential election. During the year before the election, individuals were given the chance to sign and self-address one of two kinds of postcards pledging to vote; these cards were mailed back to the individuals within 2 weeks prior to the election. It is important to note that some individuals completed pledge cards that prompted them to provide their own reason for voting by completing the sentence, "I will vote because ______," whereas other individuals completed pledge cards that did not contain this sentence prompt. We conducted a large-scale survey of individuals who filled out pledge cards and determined that receiving a pledge card with the sentence prompt had a positive influence on voting. Moreover, this effect was found above and beyond demographic and psychological predictors of voting. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Effects of an Advance Telephone Call in a Personal Interview Survey

February 1984


12 Reads

During October and November 1982, 1,260 Medicare-eligible senior citizens were interviewed in a survey focusing on health care of the elderly. As part of the survey, an experiment was conducted in each of the three survey sites to determine the effects of an advance telephone call to schedule an appointment for a personal interview. One random half sample in each site was sent a lead letter, followed by a telephone call to schedule a personal interview. The other half sample was sent a lead letter followed by a personal contact, with no intervening telephone call. Telephoning to arrange an appointment for a personal interview resulted in a 20 percent saving in data collection costs with only a 1 percent decrease in response rate.

How Unclear Terms Affect Survey Data

February 1992


44 Reads

Although writing clear questions is accepted as a general goal in surveys, procedures to ensure that each key term is consistently understood are not routine. Researchers who do not adequately test respondent understanding of questions must assume that ambiguity will not have a large or systematic effect on their results. Seven questions that were drawn from questions used in national health surveys were subjected to special pretest procedures and found to contain one or more poorly defined terms. When the questions were revised to clarify the definition of key terms, significantly different estimates resulted. The implication is that unclear terms are likely to produce biased estimates. The results indicate that evaluation of survey questions to identify key terms that are not consistently understood and defining unclear terms are ways to reduce systematic error in survey measurement.

Media and Agenda Setting: Effects on the Public, Interest Group Leaders, Policy Makers, and Policy

February 1983


216 Reads

Using an experimental design built around a single media event, the authors explored the impact of the media upon the general public, policy makers, interest group leaders, and public policy. The results suggested that the media influenced views about issue importance among the general public and government policy makers. The study suggests, however, that it was not this change in public opinion which led to subsequent policy changes. Instead, policy change resulted from collaboration between journalists and government staff members. An earlier version of this paper was given by Cook at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management, Washington, D.C., October 24, 1981. The authors wish to acknowledge Professor Carl S. Smith for his assistance during several stages of this project, and also Frederica O'Connor, Harry Ross, Steve Brooks, Lance Selfa, and Lee Sustar for many hours spent interviewing policy elites. We also wish to thank Thomas D. Cook for his insightful comments and advice on a previous draft of this paper.

Top-cited authors