Scene from movie Dazed & confused of students standing, sitting, and laying on and inside an orange convertible car

We Should Hang Out More

Movies often serve as perfect time capsules, offering snapshots of what life was like in an earlier time. Take Dazed and Confused. The movie is set in late seventies Texas and focuses on groups of ... Read Now >


Do Photoshop Disclaimers Work?

In a post earlier this year, we looked into the link between body dissatisfaction and the use of social media. It turns out some countries have been trying to do something about it, but there is a big question mark about whether these regulations really work.

Countries have passed laws regarding weight requirements and other guidelines to protect models in the fashion industry. Some have implemented Photoshop disclaimer labeling policies to show the viewer that the images are not “real.”

France enacted a disclaimer law in 2016 and Norway passed a similar regulation last summer mandating all edited images be clearly labeled as having been altered. 

But, does any of this have any effect?

Researchers have studied the implementation of disclaimer labels. A study at Flinders University in Australia may disappoint disclaimer advocates.

In the study, 363 female undergraduate students viewed various fashion advertisements, testing whether prior information they had about digital alteration could improve the effectiveness of a disclaimer label. Before reviewing the ads, some participants were asked to read one of three stories that discussed photo manipulation, unrealistic body images, or news unrelated to these issues. After reading the assigned article, participants were shown various fashion magazines either without labels or with digital alteration disclaimers.  

The results showed that body dissatisfaction increased among those who’d seen magazines with or without disclaimer labels and among all the participants regardless of the articles they’d been assigned. 

So, back to the drawing boards? What’s clear is that more research is needed into the other methods for reducing the harm caused by the flood of body perfect imagery. Because it seems unlikely these images are going to disappear from our ever more body-conscious digital world.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Emily Frey.

Statue of Fredrick Douglass

The History of Black History Month

February is Black History Month and, over the last decade, it has gained a lot more prominence than it once had. It’s also very possible President Joe Biden will nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court this month, making this celebration all the more meaningful.

A recent Morning Consult/Politico Poll showed 51% of Americans supported Biden’s commitment to name a Black woman to the court. At the same time, just 38% in the same poll said it was “important” that he do so. If Biden does follow through on his promise and she is approved by the Senate, she would be the first Black woman, and only the third Black justice, to sit on the Supreme Court.

But how did Black History Month get its start? And why February? Here’s a little history:

In 1915, nearly half a century after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the U.S., the Association for the Study of Negro (now African American) Life and History was founded. In 1926, the association named the second week of February as national Negro History Week.

Why was the second week of February significant? It coincided with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass. And so it went for another 50 years.

During that time, some cities recognized the week, but, by the 1960s with the civil rights movement fully engaged, some colleges began marking Black History Month.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month, asking Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

It has only grown in importance since. This year, the month is dedicated to “Black Health and Wellness,” with the goal of spotlighting Black scholars and medical workers, as well as, demonstrating different perspectives on health beyond mainstream medicine.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Emily Frey.

The Future of Ranked Choice Voting

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) got its big Broadway debut last summer but is it ready to open wide?

RCV is a way to vote that allows voters to rank candidates by preference on ballots. The process ensures that in multi-candidate races, one ends up with an outright majority without having to resort to run-off elections. One side effect is that RCV increases the chances for third party or independent candidates to get elected.

While RCV has been around for years and has been used in numerous places in the U.S., last summer New York City used it in the citywide elections. This was RCV’s biggest test yet. How did it go and what does it mean for the future? Read on!

RCV in 2022

An analysis done by Citizens Union showed that RCV boosted voter turnout and brought more diverse and young voters to the polls in the NYC primary. It reduced so-called “wasted” votes (votes for candidates with little chance of winning outright) and brought more representation from across the five boroughs.

Deb Otis from the RCV advocacy group Fair Vote said on a recent episode of the Poll Hub podcast, it “opens the playing field for candidates from all sorts of backgrounds.” And indeed, in NYC, 35 Democratic primary winners identified themselves as a person of color. That’s up from 26 in the current council.

Exit polls conducted by Edison Research showed 95% of people thought rank choice voting was “simple to complete.” That was good news for RVC since some critics suggested it was confusing and would hurt everything from turnout to down-ballot voting.

Otis says, “we are used to ranking things in our everyday lives, and it turns out when voters have that option at the ballot box, they want to use it.”

And, while there were some problems that cropped up on Election Day and after (RCV results are often delayed by at least a day), professor Lisa Disch at the University of Michigan may have summed it up best: “The fact that (ranked-choice voting) survived even the New York Board of Elections and produced solid results shows the robustness of the system.”

Another impact of RCV is in how some candidates campaigned. Some formed alliances, encouraging supporters to vote for them first and their allied competitor second. Kathryn Garcia, a Democratic candidate who formed a pact with another, describes campaigning in RCV: “It might not always be a lovefest but it certainly doesn’t have to be a slugfest.”

So…now that RCV has made it in NYC, will it make it everywhere? Perhaps.

Bipartisan Love?

One often overlooked benefit of RCV is that it’s ideologically neutral. Both parties benefit from the system because it increases voter turnout overall. Dr. Lee Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion, says, “at a time when we are talking about voter fraud and voter suppression, this seems to democratize voting.”

RCV was first used in the U.S. in 2004 in San Franciso. As of 2021, more than 9.2 million voting-age citizens live in areas that use RCV. Since the New York City election, RCV has gotten a lot of new attention with new localities adding, or considering, adopting it for at least some elections.

All signs point to a bright future for RCV in the U.S.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Athen Hollis.

forest fire

What Will Happen? The Future of Rising Temps

Between severe weather events and the COP26 Summit, climate change has been all over the news this year.

July 2021 was the hottest month on record according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and 2021 is likely to rank among the world’s 10-warmest years on record according to United Nations World Meteorological Organization. All of the top 10 have come in this century.

At the COP26 Summit, world leaders signed off on new plans to cut carbon emissions to slow the temperature increase. The overall goal is to keep cutting emissions until they reach zero by the mid-century.

The public is paying attention. Our recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll found half of Americans feel that current U.S. policies aimed at reducing the impact of climate change do not go far enough.

So, we’re focusing on the problem, but are we paying attention to what rising temps will actually do to the planet — and us — beyond the basics? Yes, it’s getting hotter but the impact on the oceans, forests, and crop production may be devastating in ways we aren’t thinking about.


Line chart showing sea level steadily increasing from 1990 to 2021
Sea Level Observations: 1993 – 2021

As temperatures rise, so do sea levels and that causes plenty of concern for coastal areas. Climatologists say sea level rise is driven primarily by two factors related to global warming: melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms.

Low-lying cities from Venice to Miami and New York to Shanghai face existential threats from rising seawater. But it’s not just people in coastal areas that should be paying attention. The impacts are also likely to be felt well inland.

As more ice melts, rivers and watersheds are prone to increased flooding. But, as the ice vanishes entirely (and snowfall declines), so will runoff and usable fresh water. Saltwater incursions into water sources could destroy drinking water supplies.

And then there’s the temperature of the ocean itself. Warmer sea water is already spawning more powerful storms, altering critical currents that heavily influence climate (Western Europe is far warmer than it would be without the effects of the Gulf Stream), and killing off large areas of the ocean due to acidification. Warmer salt water becomes more acidic as it absorbs carbon dioxide and most sea life suffers from more acidic conditions.

The oceans are terrific at absorbing heat. And that’s a BIG problem.


chart showing the amount of wildfire damage in the US from 1984 to 2018
Damage Caused by Wildfires in the U.S. 1984-2018

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, wildfire seasons have lengthened in many areas thanks to drier soils, shorter rainy seasons, and warmer/earlier springs. Nighttime temperatures have risen, as well, allowing fires to burn intensely throughout the night thereby increasing fire durations.

While wildfires have historically been part of many healthy ecosystems, things have changed radically over the last few decades. Now, wildfires start earlier & more easily, burn hotter, rage longer, and thoroughly wipe out life in areas that were once somewhat fire tolerant.

This has led to well understood impacts such as massive property loss, large jumps in firefighting costs, and significant numbers of firefighting deaths. But there’s also this: Wildfires both add tremendous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and destroy the very forests that absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

It’s a vicious cycle that makes slowing global warming even tougher.


Global Crop Production Change (millions of tons)

How rising global temperatures impact agriculture is less clear cut. That’s because different models of climate change produce very different outcomes in food production.

Scientists agree that climbing temperatures will creating multiple stressors, such as dry soil, decreased photosynthesis, and increased or reduced rainfall. But not equally and not everywhere.

A new study published in Nature Food predicts global crop production may see significant shifts within the next 20 years. For instance, among four key grain crops — corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans — corn yields are almost certain to fall while wheat is most likely to increase. This is because hotter and drier weather will hurt some crops, while warmer and wetter weather, along with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, will help others.

The problem, as shown in a fascinating National Geographic infographic, is that the agricultural “winners” and “losers” are unlikely to align with where the people most in need live. Add in the costs of retooling farming across millions of square miles, increased extreme weather, and new opportunities for pests and the threat of climate change to agriculture is vast.


All of this detail, thinking about how climate change will effect so many aspects of our planet and our lives, can help put the issue in perspective. While 50% of Americans in our poll cited earlier in this post think the U.S. is not doing enough about climate change — 50% felt the policies are about right, go too far, or were unsure.

Faced with not one but multiple existential threats to the planet and humanity, it’s not unfair to wonder if a 50/50 split on the question is encouraging or discouraging news.

This post was written by Marist Poll College to Career intern Emily Frey.

tape measure around a fitting mannequin

What’s the Skinny?

Is there such a thing as an “ideal” body?

Back in 2020, the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee posted an online social media study investigating the state of people’s body image in the United Kingdom. Of the 7878 participants, 65% of those under 18 and 45% of adults said they believed in an “ideal body.” 

Even more disturbing, 61% of adults and 66% of under 18s feel negative or very negative about their body image most of the time.

Could the high levels of negative body image be connected to this? 57% of adults in the study reported “rarely” or “never” seeing themselves or people who look like them reflected in the media. And for many, that means social media.

According to internal research obtained by the Wall Street Journal, more than 40% of teen Instagram users in the U.K. and U.S. said they started feeling unattractive when they began using the app. The research showed, as teens scroll through their feeds on the Facebook-owned app, they consume a steady stream of highly curated lifestyle and beauty shots.

An internal Facebook study showed social comparison is worse on Instagram than Facebook because IG content is much more focused more on body and lifestyle.

Health and fitness social media accounts have been shown to increase body dissatisfaction at least in part because creators promote specific lifestyles in order to reach particular weight or fitness goals.

In a 2017 study published in the U.K., 160 female undergrads viewed IG posts hashtagged with #fitspo, self-compassion quotes, a combination of both, or appearance-neutral. Those who viewed only #fitspo demonstrated poorer body image and body satisfaction than those who viewed a combination or just self-compassion posts.

According to a different study published in the journal Body Image in 2016, 45% of “fitspiration” images included figures posed to appear thinner or smaller than reality (e.g., positioning camera above or moving hips to minimize body).

The researchers suggest that these hashtags, like #fitspo and #fitspiration, put a problematic emphasis on thinness and physical attraction as the motivation and reward for exercise. Yet compared to some other hashtags….

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders dove deep into the controversial hashtags #thinspiration and #bonespiration, comparing the content using these hashtags to content using #fitspo. Researchers found #thinspiration content to focus on thinness and #bonespiration content to focus on extremely underweight women whose bones were protruding. #fitspo content, on the other hand, was far more focused on muscle development and athleticism.

While these hashtags were banned on multiple platforms in 2012, the content still exists.

People are constantly scrolling through images of the “ideal body” online but that “ideal body” isn’t realistic for everyone. And the problem isn’t new.

For years the fashion industry has been castigated for glorifying impossibly thin bodies but, slowly, things are changing. Fashion brands like Aerie are starting to be more inclusive with their models and sizing related to all women.

It’s taken decades to get here — so it’s probably unrealistic to think the same problem, now decentralized across all social media, will be solved quickly on Instagram or TikTok. But at least there’s a history of progress.

This post was written by Marist Poll College to Career intern Emily Frey.

woman in mask leaning over holding her head in her hands

Americans are stressed out!

In our September 30th national poll, more than 18 months after the pandemic started, 77% of Americans were either as or more stressed despite a majority being vaccinated and COVID infections and deaths dropping nationwide. What’s going on? 

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) latest “Stress in America” report released in 2021, the high levels of stress reported by Americans are directly linked to the pandemic and it’s affecting our mental and physical health. In other circumstances, high levels of stress often result in changes to sleep, overeating, and alcohol use. Is that what’s happening now?


The pandemic completely messed with Americans’ already terrible sleeping habits. According to the American Sleep Association, “Even before the pandemic, more than 50 million Americans suffered from a sleep disorder, most commonly insomnia, which can involve trouble falling or staying asleep, waking early or throughout the night, or poor sleep quality.” The added stress and anxiety from COVID appears to have made things worse.

According to the APA, roughly 2 in 3 Americans (67%) say they are sleeping either more (31%) or less (35%) than they wanted to since the pandemic started. 

So many Americans are struggling with stress-related insomnia due to COVID-19, doctors have termed it “Coronasomnia,” and it may be affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans. Google Trends reveals 2.77 million web searches for “insomnia” in the U.S. during the first five months of 2020 — an increase of 58% over the first five months of each of the prior three years.

There’s no word on how many of those searches were in the middle of the night.


With so many of us stuck at home, we appear to have headed to the kitchen more often than in the past. And all that “COVID eating” may have caught up with us. The American Psychological Association survey found that 42% of American adults had gained weight since the pandemic began, averaging around 29 pounds.

But, the lockdown seems to have also made it more challenging to find the motivation to exercise daily. Fitbit released a summary in March 2020 of the global activity levels of its 30 million users. According to its data, during the week of March 22, 2020, the U.S. saw a 12% decline in step count from the previous year.


The APA report found that nearly 1 in 4 adults (23%) said they were drinking more alcohol to cope with stress during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a Columbia University study from 2020, researchers compared retail store sales from March to September 2020. During that period, there were $41.9 billion in liquor store sales, up 20 percent over the same period in 2019 and up 18 percent compared with the previous seven-month period, August 2019 to February 2020.

Researchers found home drinking to be a leading factor in the rise in sales. With many bars and restaurants closed, “virtual cocktail parties” were a socially distant activity that brought friends and family together. Some people found themselves drinking earlier in the day and on weeknights.

Various studies have shown alcohol abuse tends to rise in times of crisis. The CDC found that alcohol consumption skyrocketed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and hospitalizations related to alcohol use disorders increased by 35%. Alcohol has been linked to mood and behaviors and also may worsen depression and anxiety.

Looking Ahead

While the shelter-in-place orders may have seemed like an extended vacation, the lasting mental health effects should not go unnoticed. As the pandemic slowly recedes (hopefully!), Americans may be dealing with these changes for years to come.

This post was written by Marist Poll College to Career intern Emily Frey.

person standing looking up at starry sky

Cleveland Museum of Natural History Survey


Cleveland Museum of Natural History Survey Conducted by the Marist Poll Shows 85% of Americans Want to Increase Their Scientific Understanding While Nearly Half Report They Are Falling Behind

With crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and disasters caused by climate change dominating headlines and people’s lives—and at a time when the American public is deeply divided on a broad range of issues—a new national poll developed by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) and conducted by the Marist Poll reveals that a vast majority of Americans trust science and think public understanding of scientific information is necessary. 

The poll shows:

  • 90% of Americans think it is necessary for people like themselves to have a basic understanding of science;
  • 88% of the public trusts in science;
  • 85% of Americans want to learn more about science, while close to half (44%) report they are falling behind in their understanding; and
  • Scientists were cited as the most trusted source of accurate scientific information (58%), while only 4% of Americans place most of their trust in either the government (2%) or social media (2%) as reliable sources. 

“The Cleveland Museum of Natural History sponsored this survey to advance our mission to promote scientific literacy and empower individuals with the tools they need to engage meaningfully on issues of human health, climate change, protecting the natural environment, and other vital challenges,” said Sonia Winner, President and CEO of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. “While Americans have traditionally trusted science, in the face of an ongoing international pandemic and polarized public opinion on so many issues, we needed to know if that trust still held. The resounding response from the public is yes.”

The survey also showed that the majority of Americans perceive the natural world is changing for the worse and that these changes affect their lives. 

  • 86% of Americans feel connected to the natural world;
  • 92% think that the health of the environment directly impacts their own health; and
  • Nearly two thirds (63%) think the natural world has changed for the worse since they were children. 

These opinions all align with the evidence the scientific community has gathered, and tested, on these issues. 

The survey also reveals a lack in basic understanding of scientific concepts but—more importantly—a desire to learn about science.

  • Almost two thirds (63%) of Americans are not aware that the elements in our bodies were present in the universe millions of years ago;
  • Slightly over half (51%) of the public incorrectly answered that scientists have documented nearly all the living things on Earth; and 
  • More than one in four Americans (29%) could not answer correctly when asked how long it takes the Earth to go around the sun.

Formal education helps, but does not guarantee scientific knowledge. Only 40% of college graduates correctly answered that the human body is composed of elements such as stardust from the ancient universe. College graduates are divided (49% to 49%) about whether or not most species on the Earth have yet to be discovered. And nearly one in five college graduates (17%) are not able to identify the amount of time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun.

“The most telling findings of the survey are not the gaps in people’s knowledge, but the public’s clear grasp of the fundamental importance of science in their daily lives and their tremendous desire to learn more,” said Dr. Gavin Svenson, CMNH Director of Research and Collections. “It is our responsibility as scientists not only to advance our understanding of the world, but to respond to this call from the public to share the relevance of this research and enable people to navigate the constantly evolving body of scientific evidence and knowledge.”

CMNH President and CEO Winner added, “The Museum’s $150 million campaign to transform all our exhibitions and programs—and even our building—is designed to give scientists the platform to share their passion and their knowledge with the public. There are very few places where the public can directly experience new scientific information, see how science progresses, and find new perspectives on how to use those insights in their daily life. The events of the last months have demonstrated how vital that is.”

Survey Data

About the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History illuminates the natural world and inspires visitors to engage with the scientific forces that shape their lives. Since its founding in 1920, the Museum has pioneered scientific research to advance knowledge across diverse fields of study and used its outstanding collections, which have grown to encompass more than five million artifacts and specimens, to engage the public with the dynamic connections between humans and the world around us. Through its Natural Areas Program, the Museum stewards more than 11,000 acres of protected ecosystems across northern Ohio. A community gathering place, educational center, and research institution, CMNH is a vital resource that serves the Cleveland community and the nation. For more information, visit

Rock & Rap: How Public Opinion Has Changed

This year, the Foo Fighters and Jay-Z were both selected for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Pretty amazing stuff considering their music is part of genres that weren’t always embraced by the American public. So, what changed?

As the 60s came to a close, Americans had been numbed by a thousand body bags a month heading home from Vietnam, back-to-back summers of violent riots, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

But, in that last summer of the historic decade, rock and roll was ascendant as some of the most popular groups headed to the Hudson Valley for Woodstock. In that moment of August 1969, rock represented the counterculture — free love, plenty of weed, long hair, peace and freedom — but worthy of a hall of fame? Doubtful.

Jimi Hendrix:

In what appears to be the first major poll asking about rock, a 1969 Louis Harris & Associates Poll found 77% of people said that young people who liked rock ‘n’ roll were neither “harming” nor “helping” American life. Rock just was.

But, as the Woodstock generation grew up and shed some of its anti-establishment idealism, rock — especially from the 60s and 70s — started being seen through a nostalgic lens. In a 1989 Media General/Associated Press Poll, 50% of Americans said that they looked back on the rock music of the time as either “good” or “excellent.” Right on.

But, current music? That was a different story. The mid-80s featured loud controversies about rap and rock lyrics. The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) — headed by Boomers from the rock ‘n’ roll generation — led the charge over what it considered violent and misogynistic music and videos and got the recording industry to start a voluntary rating system, similar to the movies, that survives to this day.

By the time the Foo Fighters emerged from the grunge rock scene in the mid-90s, rock was still thriving and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland. But, Americans were split over rock’s legacy in society. A 1999 Pew Research Poll found 45% of Americans thought rock and roll had been a “change for the better”, while 23% thought it had been for the worse.

Foo Fighters:

A 2002 NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll appeared to show things going downhill for rock with 34% of Americans saying rock had a “negative impact” on society and only 4% saying it had a “positive impact.” Still, it continued to be incredibly popular, with a 2006 Ipsos/AP/Rolling Stone Poll and a 2013 CBS News Poll both finding rock and roll as the favorite type of music among Americans.

And what about hip hop and rap?

In a 2007 Princeton Survey Research Poll, 70% of Americans said they “rarely” or “never” listened to hip hop or rap. In the same poll, 62% of Americans said that hip hop was a “bad influence” on society and, when asked to elaborate on what made it a bad influence, they most often cited offensive language (47%), promoting violence or gangs (24%), and negative stereotypes of women (20%).


These criticisms have persisted over the years, and despite hip hop’s increased popularity during this century, as recently as 2015, a CBS News Poll still had rap and hip hop cited as the second hardest music genre to “enjoy” (29%), behind only heavy metal (36%).

But in the music biz, what really matters is the benjamins, and the latest data shows hip hop as the #1 streaming genre while rock is #1 in physical sales. Which brings us back to the Foo Fighters and Jay-Z entering the Hall of Fame this year.

Despite public concerns about how rock, hip hop, and rap impact society, Jay-Z and the Foo Fighters have had incredible success, winning 23 and 12 Grammys, respectively, selling millions of records, and becoming cultural icons.

Which may just show the oldest rule of pop music — if your parents hate it, it must be good.

College to Career interns Stefan Feibel and Patrick Beglane wrote this report.

Legal books and a gavel

Legal Abortion Challenge?

Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for nearly half a century. Despite decades of majority support among Americans for the legal right to abortion, recent changes at the U.S. Supreme Court have potentially put Roe in question. And, a new case the court has agreed to hear may be the first realistic possibility for overturning the landmark ruling. Why now?

We’ve gone back to 1973 — when the Supreme Court determined that the Constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion under the 14th Amendment — to see how public opinion has, or hasn’t, changed since that historic ruling. What we find is a majority of Americans have consistently supported a woman’s right to abortion in some circumstances.

In that year, Roe v. Wade moved abortion into the national political spotlight. When the Harris Poll asked Americans where they stood on the statement, “Many mothers have unwanted babies, and it is better to have abortions that are safe and legal,” 57% agreed, and 36% disagreed.

When other polls over time have asked a similarly dichotomous question on the abortion issue, support for abortion rights reflects these results.

In a 1980 CBS News/New York Times survey, the question posed to Americans was if a woman should be allowed to have an abortion if a doctor agreed to it. 62% said yes, 19% said no, and another 19% said “it depends” or did not have an opinion.

A decade later, a 1990 Time Magazine/CNN Poll took a different approach, asking Americans whether they favored or opposed a constitutional amendment banning abortion. 73% were against such an amendment, and 21% favored it.

At the turn of the century, in 2000, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll asked the straightforward question, should abortion be illegal, or not. 53% of Americans said they supported legal abortion, 35% said they did not.

In 2010, a CBS News/New York Times Poll asked if Americans thought Roe v. Wade was a “good thing” or a “bad thing.” 58% said it was a good thing, and 34% said bad thing.

When asked in the most recent Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll (January 2021) if Americans considered themselves to be pro-choice or pro-life, 53% said they were pro-choice, and 43% said pro-life.

Dichotomous questions, though, can push attitudes to the extremes. When asked on a six-point scale which allows respondents to weigh in on when abortion should be allowed, there is more nuance, with many Americans saying abortion should be allowed only under certain conditions.

According to that Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll, only 15% of Americans supported abortion at any point in a woman’s pregnancy, and an additional 10% reported abortion should be permitted within the first six months of pregnancy. At the other end of the spectrum, 12% reported abortion should never be allowed.

Nearly three in four Americans, though, reported significant restrictions should be placed on abortion: within the first three months of pregnancy (25%); only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother (28%); or only to save the life of the mother (11%).

As Barbara Carvalho, Director of The Marist Poll, points out, the debate over abortion is complex:

“Especially in this time, where it’s so incredibly polarized, we have to make sure that we are also looking at the underlying beliefs that people have on the issue, not just at the poles…. If you look at what the consensus is, there is a very strong consensus about maintaining Roe v. Wade but also about having certain restrictions. ‘Abortion on demand’ is used as a polarizing phrase, and that is when people begin dividing up.”

How important an issue is abortion to Americans? Our September 2020 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll sought to better understand the issues priorities of Americans. We provided a list of 12 issues, including abortion, and asked respondents which topic was most important to them. The results revealed that only 5% of Americans said abortion was their top issue. But, that’s not the whole story.

Which segments of Americans are in that 5% explains a lot about why Roe may be in jeopardy now. In that poll, white evangelical Christians and Republicans both said abortion was the 2nd most important issue to them after the economy.

There’s a lot of nuance that lies behind the abortion debate in America, but, when it comes to the question of priorities, abortion opponents find this topic more critical than do those who favor Roe.

Every Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan has run on an explicitly anti-abortion, anti-Roe platform. During this same period, the Supreme Court has had 5 or fewer conservative justices; some of whom declined to vote to effectively overturn Roe v. Wade when given the chance.

Now, with 6 of 9 justices thought to be against most legal abortion, the idea of Roe being overturned is a real possibility. The question for people on both sides of the abortion debate then is, does the threat of Supreme Court action make it a more important issue to the large group of Americans who have never thought it a priority?

This post was written by Marist Poll “College 2 Career” intern Sarah DeBellis.

Silhouette of a ballot being dropped into a ballot box

Is New Voting Legislation the “New Normal”?

As businesses and schools begin to reopen, a slow return to normalcy is finally underway, but the impacts of the last year may foster long-lasting changes for American democracy. New voting legislation has been making headlines in the election’s wake, and public opinion on voting rights and trust in elections could be a crucial piece of the country’s “new normal.”

The 2020 election marked a watershed in U.S. elections. More Americans voted by mail than ever before, as a global pandemic continued to spread and death tolls rose. A contentious presidential election ended with cries of voter fraud from the former president and other political leaders, culminating in the U.S. Capitol riots on January 6.

Now, new voting legislation has emerged in states and in Congress. A new Georgia law overhauled election protocols about absentee ballots, early voting, and distributing food and drinks to voters waiting in lines. Similar legislation in Texas aims to add penalties to the voting process and empower pollwatchers. In Congress, the For the People Act passed in the House in March and aims to expand voting rights, alter the process for redistricting, and make campaign finances more transparent, among other changes.

This legislation presents a classic dilemma: what comes first? Laws or public opinions? Distrust is real, but where’s it coming from? Months after the 2020 election, fallout from the “Big Lie” continues to shake American confidence in the voting process. Three in 10 Americans do not believe that Joe Biden legitimately won the presidency last November, according to an April CNN poll.

More than distrust in election results, Americans have also expressed a lack of faith in the voting process itself. According to a Fox News Poll, 6 in 10 Americans are extremely or very concerned about voter suppression. Will changes to voting laws make voting more accessible or construct new barriers to civic duty?

That, too, is a topic on which many Americans divide –– in that April CNN Poll, 45% say these rules make voting too difficult, and 46% say the rules aren’t strict enough.

According to that CNN Poll, a majority of Americans believe there are certain changes states could implement to make elections more fair, including making early in-person voting available beyond normal business hours and on weekends (65%), requiring photo ID before voting (64%), and registering eligible voters automatically when they turn 18 years old (51%).

A plurality say that sending absentee ballot applications to every registered voter (42%) and allowing voter registration at polling places on Election Day (48%) would also make elections more fair. However, a plurality of Americans think that other changes would have the opposite effect and decrease the fairness of elections; for instance, 41% of Americans said limiting ballot drop boxes to only the hours when polls are open would make elections less fair.

Election Law Changes in Georgia

Disputes over voting rights came to a head in Georgia this spring. The Republican-led state legislature passed an overhaul of election laws, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed, calling it “another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible, and fair.”

The bill provoked both controversy and consensus, according to a poll of Georgia voters by the University of Georgia. Some aspects garnered bipartisan support, including the requirement of two Saturdays for early in-person voting (75% support), while others drew the ire of both parties; namely, the ban on giving food and drinks to voters waiting in line (66% oppose).

In other cases, the poll revealed a split along party lines. For instance, a new provision requires voters to provide their driver’s license number as identification in order to vote via absentee ballot –– 93% of Georgia Republicans support the provision compared with 35% of state’s Democrats.

Overall, the bill bolstered the confidence of Georgia Republicans (82%) in elections, compared to just 17% of Democrats. While satisfaction with the changes varies greatly along party lines, the motivation behind the changes is clear to most Georgia voters: 72% believe that Trump’s loss in Georgia prompted the new law’s passage.

Georgia’s new law marks the first major elections overhaul in a battleground state following the 2020 election and indicates division over what Americans hope this “new normal” looks like. Georgia’s law, along with legislation in Texas and in Congress, begs the question: what will successfully restore Americans’ faith in the legitimacy of elections?

As the country continues to move toward some semblance of normalcy, the answers to that question will determine not only the landscape of voting legislation but the efficacy of the country’s functioning democracy.

College 2 Career Interns Sarah Lynch and Astrea Slezak wrote this report.