In a research note published in the March 2022 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, lab director Ruth Braunstein, along with coauthors Andrew Whitehead and Ryan Burge review national public opinion data on public funding of abortion:
Abstract: An abundance of research examines Americans’ attitudes toward abortion legality and morality with particular attention to polarization around this issue and the influence of social movements, religious organizations, the media, and political leaders. There is a relative dearth, however, of research focusing on attitudes toward the public funding of abortion services. Using three national, random samples of American adults, we address this gap in the literature. We find that the oft-cited “bipartisan consensus” around opposition to public funding of abortion is a myth. In fact, there is more bipartisan consensus around abortion legality than abortion funding, across religious traditions. As national debates about abortion funding intensify, these findings underscore the importance of future surveys consistently measuring Americans’ attitudes toward public funding of abortion, above and beyond abortion legality or morality.
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 From debates about whether the Hyde Amendment should be repealed to whether Planned Parenthood should be defunded, Americans across the political spectrum have turned their attention to this question.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!
We are excited to announce the launch of the Meanings of Democracy Lab, founded and directed by UConn sociologist Dr. Ruth Braunstein. Several big questions animate how Americans engage in civic and political life: Who counts as a “real” American? What is required of a “good” citizen? Is American democracy flourishing or floundering? In today’s deeply polarized America, the answers to these questions depend on who you ask, but the ways that different people answer them matter for us all.
The newly launched Meanings of Democracy Lab engages students and partners in collaborative research on and discussion about the contested moral and cultural foundations of American democratic life. Current projects focus on the moral meanings of taxpaying and on battles over the roles of race and religion in American identity and history.
If you are interested in participating in or collaborating with the Meanings of Democracy Lab, email Dr. Ruth Braunstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.