In 37 consecutive polls performed throughout the past 21 years on the issue of abortion, Gallup has found that a majority of Americans surveyed say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
“In the past 20 years, the percentage who say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances or all but a few circumstances has never dropped below 54 percent,” writes Terence P. Jeffrey at CNS News.com.
A review of the data over the last two decades may appear to be at odds with Gallup’s latest poll, conducted May 6-10, with the headline: “Americans Choose ‘Pro-Choice’ For First Time in Seven Years.”
“Half of Americans consider themselves ‘pro-choice’ on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as ‘pro-life,’” Gallup’s Lydia Saad wrote in her analysis of that poll. “This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans’ abortion views.”
The pro-choice view is not as prevalent among Americans as it was in the mid-1990s, but the momentum for the pro-life position that began when Barack Obama took office has yielded to a pro-choice rebound. That rebound has essentially restored views to where they were in 2008; today’s views are also similar to those found in 2001. Some of the variation in public views on abortion over time coincides with political and cultural events that may have helped shape public opinion on the issue, including instances of anti-abortion violence, legislative efforts to ban “partial-birth abortion” or limit abortion funding, and certain Supreme Court cases. While events like these may continue to cause public views on abortion to fluctuate, the broader liberal shift in Americans’ ideology of late could mean the recent pro-choice expansion has some staying power.
As Jeffrey observes, however, in that Gallup survey, a combined 55 percent of participants said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances or in all but a few circumstances.
The poll specifically found that 29 percent of respondents said abortion should be legal “under any circumstances,” and 13 percent “under most circumstances.” However, 36 percent responded that abortion should be “legal only in a few circumstances,” and 19 percent said it should be illegal “in all circumstances,” totaling 55 percent believing abortion should be illegal in all, or all but a few, circumstances.
Gallup’s data sheet for that poll shows results for this particular question of when abortion should be illegal for the 37 surveys it has performed since September of 1994.
“In every one of these surveys, the combined percentage of respondents who said abortion should be illegal ‘in all circumstances’ or in all but ‘a few circumstances’ exceeded 50 percent of those surveyed,” writes Jeffrey, adding that “the lowest these combined answers have ever been was 51 percent,” in both September of 1994 and September of 1995.
Gallup has also asked survey participants the question, “With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?”
In September of 1995, 56 percent of participants described themselves as pro-choice and 33 percent as pro-life, while in the latest survey, 50 percent say they are pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life.
The labels of “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” however, may not be aptly describing Americans’ beliefs about abortion.
In the most recent poll results, on which Gallup’s headline – “Americans Choose ‘Pro-Choice’ For First Time in Seven Years” – was based, 27 percent of “pro-choice” individuals say abortion should be mostly illegal, while only 9 percent of “pro-life” people say it should be mostly legal.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, looked at the poll and tells Breitbart News: “While on the surface, it looks like more Americans are self-identifying as pro-choice than pro-life, when you look at the split in what exactly they favor, those numbers tell a different story.”
“Americans may be misidentifying themselves when it comes to the matter of abortion since a majority clearly support significant restrictions on abortion,” Hawkins continued. “We see students misidentifying themselves all the time on campuses across the country, which is why we no longer ask them if they are pro-life or pro-choice. They don’t know what the labels mean. Instead we ask if they support legal abortion or how long into a pregnancy they tolerate abortion.”
“As this pro-life generation continues to mature and technology continues to advance, more and more Americans will come to realize the great human tragedy of abortion,” she added.
Similarly, Maureen Ferguson of the Catholic Association tells Breitbart News, “This poll shows once again that most Americans oppose most abortions. Not only do the majority of people morally oppose most abortions, they want them to be against the law.”
“Polling numbers are even higher when talking about protecting babies from late-term abortion, so we hope the U.S. Senate will listen to the will of the people and pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy,” she added.