Recently, a new report called “The Millennials, Religion, and Abortion Survey” was released by the Public Religion Research Institute. It’s being characterized as one of the largest surveys ever to measure the relationships between people’s moral and spiritual values and their views on abortion.
In addition to correlating young people’s views on abortion with demographic data such as their education, race, religious affiliation and the like, the researchers added a few new factors to the list, including whether the interviewee knew someone who had an abortion, whether they had seen an ultrasound and—interestingly—whether they had watched TV shows that featured unmarried pregnant teens and women.
First off, some of the overall numbers were a bit surprising. Among the 18- to 29-year-old crowd, 46% were either affirming (16%) or neutral (30%) when it came to their off-the-top-of-their-head association with abortion. Which leaves 54% in the opposing camp. And that matched up exactly with the 46% of “yeas” and 54% of “nays” when these folks were asked if abortion was “morally acceptable.” (Even though 60% of the Millennials attested to believing abortion should be legal.)
Things changed a bit when the “add-on” factors came into play. As you might expect, those who knew someone who had an abortion, for instance, were slightly more likely to support abortion, and those who had recently seen an ultrasound were slightly less likely to support it.
The big impact, however, showed up when they threw a little TV watching into the mix. The Millennials who had seen MTV’s Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant approved of abortion to the tune of 65%.
It’s impossible, of course, to know why watching these shows seems to skew viewers in favor of abortion. Or even if the truth of it is that people who already favor abortion tend to be attracted to the series. But I can’t shake the feeling that the media is exerting an influence on our convictions about what’s right and wrong, what’s acceptable and what’s not.