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How Much Did Anti-Abortion Rhetoric Contribute to the Attack Against Planned Parenthood?
Daniel Cox, Ph.D., Joanna Piacenza,
12.10.2015

Robert L. Dear Jr., the man who opened fire at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colo. said Wednesday, “I’m guilty. There’s no trial. I’m a warrior for the babies,” during his first court appearance for the shooting last month that killed three people and wounded nine. Many are calling his actions the result of increased anti-abortion political rhetoric.

The new PRRI/RNS survey, out today, helps us gain a better understanding of whether Americans—of different political affiliations and religious backgrounds—believe there is a link between the heated rhetoric employed in the political debate over abortion and violent action against health clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion services.

PRRI Anti Abortion Rhetoric Planned Parenthood by Party

Overall, Americans are about evenly divided over whether recent anti-abortion language in the political debate contributed a lot (31 percent), a little (30 percent) or not at all (25 percent) to the shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Notably, 14 percent said they didn’t know or refused to answer.

Predictably, there are significant partisan cleavages on the issue. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say anti-abortion rhetoric in the political debate contributed to the shooting a lot, 41 percent vs. 16 percent, respectively. Just ten percent of Democrats and nearly four in ten (39 percent) Republicans say such political language wasn’t connected to the shooting at all. The views of independents closely track those of the general public.

Opinions are also stratified by religious background. Non-white Protestants are the most likely to say that negative political discourse contributed to the shooting a lot (40 percent), while white mainline Protestants (21 percent) are the least likely to perceive such a connection. Roughly three in ten white evangelical Protestants (28 percent), Catholics (31 percent), and more than one-third (34 percent) of religiously unaffiliated Americans say anti-abortion language was a major contributor to the shooting in Colorado. More than one-third (35 percent) of white mainline Protestants, roughly three in ten (29 percent) Catholics, one-quarter (26 percent) of white evangelical Protestants, 20 percent of non-white Protestants, and 16 percent of the unaffiliated say there is no connection at all between anti-abortion rhetoric and the violence perpetrated against Planned Parenthood.

Read the questionnaire topline here.