Gallup: ‘Public Favoring More Restrictive Laws’ on Abortion

Anti-abortion sign

A new Gallup poll confirms other polling that finds while Americans appear evenly split on whether they initially identify as “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice,” further questioning about their views shows even those who say they are “pro-choice” are in favor of more restrictive abortion laws.

The survey finds Americans are evenly divided in their identification as “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice,” with 48 percent claiming each label. However, a majority – 53 percent – say abortion should be legal in only a few (35 percent) or no circumstances (18 percent).

According to Gallup:

Although close to eight in 10 Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or some circumstances, further probing of their attitudes finds the public favoring more restrictive rather than less restrictive laws. In a follow-up question asked of those in the middle “legal under certain circumstances” group, most of these respondents say it should be legal “only in a few” rather than in “most” circumstances.

The issue is explored as Iowa recently signed into law a fetal heartbeat measure that bans most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy. The law has been challenged by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The U.S. Supreme Court also declined to hear a challenge by Planned Parenthood to a recent Arkansas law restricting drug abortions.

In another survey question about whether abortion is morally acceptable vs. morally wrong, 48 percent responded that abortion is morally wrong, while 43 percent said it is morally acceptable. Gallup states that “at no point” since 2001, when it first asked survey participants about the morality of abortion, “have more Americans said abortion is morally acceptable than have said it is morally wrong.”

Results of the poll were based on telephone interviews conducted May 1-10, 2018, with a random sample of 1,024 adults. Survey results based on the total sample of national adults have a margin of sampling error of ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

In January, a Marist poll found 76 percent of Americans favor limiting abortion to – at most – the first trimester of pregnancy. This outcome was found among the majority of Republicans (92 percent), Democrats (61 percent), and Independents (78 percent).

That poll, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, also found that while 51 percent of Americans identify as “pro-choice,” 60 percent of those “pro-choice” individuals agree with substantial restrictions on abortion. The survey also revealed that 63 percent of Americans would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and that 60 percent oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.

The Marist poll also explored the abortion morality issue. In that survey, 56 percent of respondents considered abortion to be “morally wrong,” and 64 percent considered the procedure “morally wrong” when it is performed on babies with genetic issues, such as Down syndrome.

Marist conducted two surveys, one consisting of 1,267 adults was conducted Dec. 4-7, 2017, and a second survey of 1,350 adults was conducted Jan. 8-10, 2018. Results for both months were statistically significant within ±2.8 percentage points and ±2.7 percentage points, respectively.


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