Poll: Majority identify as 'pro-life'
Published: May 16, 2009 at 12:22 PM
"A Gallup Poll indicates for the first time since it started asking the question 14 years ago that a majority of U.S. adults describe themselves as "pro-life."
In the poll released Friday, 51 percent called themselves "pro-life," while 42 percent considered themselves "pro-choice," The Washington Post reported Saturday. That's a significant reversal from last year's poll when 50 percent said they were "pro-choice" while 44 percent called themselves "pro-life."
The change comes at a time when the Obama administration is trying to convince those on opposite sides of the abortion battle they can find middle ground, the Post reported.
The poll was conducted via telephone May 7-10 with 1,015 adults and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points."
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51% identify as 'pro-life' in U.S.
It's the first time the Gallup Poll finds 'pro-choice' outweighed -- at 42% -- and a near-reversal of last year's figures.
By Robin Abcarian
May 16, 2009
"At a time when President Obama is trying to convince opponents in the abortion battle that they can find middle ground -- in rhetoric, if not reality -- a new Gallup Poll shows that more Americans describe themselves as "pro-life" than "pro-choice."
For the first time since it began asking the question in 1995, Gallup reported Friday, a majority of adults questioned for its annual survey on values and beliefs -- 51% -- said that when it comes to abortion, they consider themselves "pro-life"; 42% consider themselves "pro-choice." (The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.)
This represents a significant shift, Gallup noted. As recently as last year, 50% of respondents called themselves "pro-choice" and 44% identified themselves as "pro-life."
Moderate and conservative Republicans accounted for the change; Democrats' attitudes toward abortion remained constant. "It is possible," Gallup said in its analysis, that the president "has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be 'pro-choice' slightly to the left, politically."
Regarding abortion restrictions, the largest proportion of Americans supports legal abortion only in certain circumstances -- as has been true since 1975 -- according to Gallup. This year the figure is 53%.
At the ends of the spectrum, the number of people who think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances has risen, to 22%, and the number who think it should be legal in any circumstances has fallen, to 23% -- a virtual tie. In the previous few years, people who opposed all restrictions outnumbered advocates of a total ban by a wider margin.
Still, said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America: "I am pretty confident that Americans really don't want Roe v. Wade overturned." The larger number of Americans calling themselves "pro-life," she said, "doesn't square with what has happened in the last several elections." Keenan cited the rejection of abortion bans by voters in politically conservative South Dakota in 2006 and 2008, and the failure of five other antiabortion ballot measures in California, Oregon and Colorado since 2005.
But antiabortion activists think they have more than the new poll on their side. "This isn't new," said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life. "It tracks pretty much with what we've always known: People generally are pro-life depending on how you ask the question."
The poll comes at a delicate moment for Obama, who campaigned saying abortion should be "safe, legal and rare."
During his first three months in office, he took a number of steps that infuriated abortion foes. For example, he lifted abortion restrictions on foreign family-planning groups that receive U.S. funding, and he ended President George W. Bush's ban on embryonic stem cell research.
But Obama has tried at times to appease opponents of abortion rights.
Last month, he backpedaled on a campaign vow to enact the Freedom of Choice Act, which would guarantee the right to legal abortion even if Roe vs. Wade were overturned. He now says the legislation is not a priority.
But Yoest said abortion foes were not placated. "There has been such an avalanche of pro-abortion activity that it's jaw-dropping. It's not just that his rhetoric doesn't square with reality; the gap is Grand Canyon-size. I think this administration has fundamentally miscalculated how out of step they are with the American people."
"America may have a president and Congress that support abortion rights, but a new Gallup poll suggests that for the first time such a stance is not the majority view.
Gallup said on Friday that a new poll, conducted May 7 to 10, found “51 percent of Americans calling themselves ‘pro-life’ on the issue of abortion and 42 percent ‘pro-choice.’ This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.”
“The new results, obtained from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50 percent were pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life. Prior to now, the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46 percent, in both August 2001 and May 2002.”
Underscoring how divisive the issue remains, the poll further found that 23 percent of Americans felt abortion should be illegal in all circumstances and 22 percent said it should be legal in all circumstances.
Still, it found that 53 percent held to a middle view — that is should be legal in certain circumstances. That figure, Gallup said, has been steady since 1975.
A few other things stand out. The percentage of Republicans and those who lean to that party who lablel themselves “pro-life” rose by 10 percentage points over the past year to 70 percent. As there was essentially no shift among Democrats on this issue (33 percent said they were “pro-life,” unchanged since last year) much of the shift clearly came from the Republican side. Does this suggest a hardening among the party faithful, whose numbers have also been in decline, in reaction to the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama?
Much of the opposition to abortion in America has been faith-based, led mostly though not exclusively by conservative Catholics and evangelicals. The latter in particular have for decades been a key base of support for the Republican Party.
There has been much recent talk among the media and Republican strategists that the party needs to move away from divisive social issues like abortion and gay marriage in a bid to broaden a base which many see as shrinking. This poll will be ammunition for those who say the party needs to stick its guns on these issues.
The findings are sure to stir both sides of this emotional debate, especially as Obama seeks to fill a new vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, where the legality of issues such as abortion can ultimately be decided."