Majority of Americans Now Pro-Life
Special Report - May 19, 2009
A recent Gallup poll found that more Americans are calling themselves pro-life than at any other time since Gallup started asking in 1995. Jumping seven percentage points in one year, 51 percent of Americans now identify as pro-life, while self-proclaimed pro-choice Americans shrank from 50 percent to 42 percent. In 1995, the results were very different with a full 56 percent of Americans identifying as pro-choice and only 33 percent as pro-life. The prior high for pro-life Americans was 46 percent in August 2001 and May 2002.
The results come as a surprise, since, according to Gallup they have “found a strong tilt of public attitudes in favor of unrestricted abortion” the last four years. However, this most recent survey shows a trend toward limiting abortion to fewer circumstances. According to a recent Pew Research Center national survey, there has been an eight percentage-point drop since August in the number of Americans saying that abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances (54 percent down to 46 percent). That is coupled with an increase from 41 percent to 44 percent in the number who support abortion in few or no instances.
The survey also broke down the numbers by political party, political ideology, religion, and gender. Republicans are heavily responsible for the shift, with them now taking a 70-26 percentage-point pro-life view. In 2008, only 60 percent of Republicans identified themselves as pro-life. Democrats have been fairly constant around a 61-33 pro-life position. Ideologically, conservatives and moderates have shifted away from abortion. Conservatives identifying as pro-life jumped from 66 percent in 2008 to 71 percent in 2009. Pro-life moderates increased from 38 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2009. Protestants and Catholics both increased their pro-life percentages by at least seven percentage-points since last year. For the first time in nine years, “significantly more men and women are pro-life than pro-choice,” according to Gallup. The pro-life position jumped six percentage-points among women to a plurality 49 percent and eight percentage-points among men to a majority 54 percent.
“With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation's policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans -- and, in particular, Republicans -- seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position,” according to Gallup editor Lydia Saad. “However, the retreat is evident among political moderates as well as conservatives.”
She continued, “It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be "pro-choice" slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.”
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