During Fall 2021, our Research Team analyzed the debate surrounding the use of “taxpayer money” to fund abortion. From debates about whether the Hyde Amendment should be repealed to whether Planned Parenthood should be defunded, Americans across the political spectrum have turned their attention to this question. While Americans’ opinions on the matter map closely onto their more general positions on whether abortion should be legal, they often think differently about the question of whether it should also be publicly funded, or as some think of it, funded using “their tax dollars.”
Most Americans do not give much thought to the myriad ways in which their tax dollars are spent, yet the question of how to spend public money is at the heart of what it means to live in a pluralistic democracy. Our dollars are an extension of our moral selves, and do work in the world that we feel at least some moral responsibility for — think about calls for ethical consumption or divestment campaigns. This is no less true of our tax dollars. But in a society that is both diverse and deeply divided on many moral issues, this creates a conundrum. Put plainly, should people who have grave moral concerns about something be required to contribute to it with their tax dollars; or inversely, should public services reflect the moral values of only some citizens?
In the coming months, we will be posting short research briefs produced by members of the Research Team, in which they explore how Americans think and write about this issue. They explore this question from multiple angles, by analyzing social media hashtag campaigns, newspaper opinion articles, and the newsletters of advocacy organizations. Follow along to see what we found!