Fewer in U.S. identify as ‘pro-choice’ but support for abortion rights is unchanged
Gallup poll finds four in ten Americans willing to say they are ‘pro-choice’, but two-thirds believe abortion should be legal
Four out of ten Americans identify themselves as “pro-choice” on abortion, the lowest proportion in almost two decades, according to a Gallup poll published on Wednesday.
In the poll, 50% describe themselves as “pro-life”, one point short of the record high recorded by the survey, which is conducted annually, in May 2009.
The decline in the proportion of people who identify themselves as “pro-choice” is seen across the political spectrum, the research found. But it also revealed a disparity between what labels Americans choose to identify with and their fundamental views about the morality and legality of abortion.
When asked about whether abortion should be a legal in all circumstance, certain circumstances or no circumstances, the poll found respondents’ views to be consistent for the last decade. Two-thirds believed it should be legal in all or certain circumstances, while only 20% believe it should be illegal in all circumstances.
It said: “Since 2001, at least half of Americans have consistently chosen the middle position, saying abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, and the 52% saying this today is similar to the 50% in May 2011. The 25% currently wanting abortion to be legal in all cases and the 20% in favor of making it illegal in all cases are also similar to last year’s findings.”
Just over half of Americans, 51%, consider abortion morally wrong, it found, while 38% say it is morally acceptable – nearly identical to the results in May 2011.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood of America, said: “Abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman.”
In a statement issued in response to the findings, she said: “What this poll makes clear is that labels like ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ simply don’t reflect the complexity of how most people actually think and feel about abortion in this country. A majority of Americans still believe abortion should remain a safe and legal medical procedure for a woman to consider if and when she needs it, and these fundamental views have held steady for more than a decade. Instead of putting people in one category or another, we should respect the real-life decisions women and their families face every day.”
Citing recent controversies such as congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, the cancer charity Susan G Komen for the Cure’s temporary decision to halt funding for the healthcare provider and family planning organisation, and the ongoing conflict between the Catholic church and President Barack Obama’s administration’s contraception mandate in health insurance, the Gallup survey notes the recent political and media focus on such issues.
But it concludes that it is “unclear” whether they may have had a part to play in the shift in the number of Americans who consider themselves pro-life.Richardson stressed that Gallup also included the issue of contraception for the first time.
She said: “As women’s health opponents continue their unprecedented assault on access to basic health care, this poll reiterates birth control is not a moral issue – it is simply basic health care. The fact is that birth control use is nearly universal in the US – 99% of sexually active women use it at some point in their lives.
“The Affordable Care Act’s birth control coverage benefit means that millions more women will have access to affordable birth control, and this important step forward needs to be maintained.”
The poll found that Democrats’ position on abortion had changed the least over the last 12 years, with around 60% describing themselves as pro-choice and a third pro-life, aside from a spike of 68% last year.
A majority of Republicans have consistently and by a gradually increasing margin, taken the pro-life stance from 2001, it found. The percentage of political independents identifying as pro-choice was 10 points lower than last year, while the percentage pro-life was up six, making pro-lifers outnumbering pro-choicers for only the second time since 2009.
[Image via Progress Ohio, Creative Commons licensed]