THE DIMENSIONS OF PUBLIC OPINION ON ABORTION: CONCEPTUALIZING ATTITUDES ABOUT ABORTION IN THE 2006 ANES PILOT STUDY DATA IN TERMS OF THE GRAVITY OF THE DECISION AT SOCIAL AND INDIVIDUAL LEVELS
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Measuring attitudes toward abortion is problematic, a fact acknowledged by the battery of questions addressing it in the ANES 2006 Pilot Study. The proposal for the 2006 ANES Pilot Study abortion questions says that issues of rape, incest, and the life of the woman are mixed in the wording of the standard ANES abortion question. Instead, seven abortion scenarios and a more detailed response set are proposed as a remedy. This work suggests that even in the transformed state the problem of measuring attitudes about abortion still lacks conceptual clarity. It further suggests that the pro-choice and pro-life rhetoric frequently used to describe the two opposing positions on the issue represent little more than a linguistic gimmick intended to frame the discussion (see Iyengar & Kinder, 1985). Rather, medical, civil, and social/cultural issues underlie the rhetoric of choice and life and represent discrete evaluative structures from which respondents may frame the issue. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) analysis shows those issues can best be understood when arrayed on two dimensions based on the gravity of the decision to abort for the individual or for society.