Polling Life
Reading Gallup’s latest abortion polling.

(© 2012 Gallup, Inc.)


Pro-lifers received some good news this week when Gallup released the results of a nationwide survey showing that for the second time, the percentage of Americans who identified themselves as “pro-life” reached the 50 percent threshold. Further, the percentage of Americans describing themselves as “pro-choice” fell to 41 percent — an all-time low. Overall, the long-term trends show consistent gains for the pro-life position.

These survey results were released about one month before the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. This is further evidence that pro-lifers have shrewdly used the legal openings granted to them through Casey to win hearts and minds. Specifically, state-level efforts to enact informed-consent statutes, parental-involvement laws, and fetal-pain bills have resonated with the American public.

Interestingly, many pro-lifers were pessimistic about public-opinion trends during the 1970s and 1980s. Some thought the sharp increase in the number of abortions would give many an emotional incentive to support legal abortion. Furthermore, polls during the 1970s showed that young people were far more supportive of abortion than older Americans. Times have certainly changed. In fact, the resignation of NARAL’s president because of the inability of abortion-rights advocates to effectively engage young people might be the best news of all.

— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan–Dearborn, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_J_New

While the record-low percentage of Americans who identify themselves as pro-choice is certainly notable, it is also important to note that Americans’ underlying views on abortion are remarkably constant. Those views diverge substantially from the reality of abortion in America.

The percentage of Americans who consider abortion “morally wrong” was unchanged this year at 51 percent. In the latest Gallup poll, 38 percent consider abortion morally acceptable, down from 39 percent last year. A slim majority, 52 percent, think abortion should be legal in some, not all, circumstances, up from 50 percent last year. This number has always been above 50 percent. But how different the reality of the Roe regime is from this consensus for limited access to abortion. According to Gallup’s July 2011 poll on abortion restrictions, 71 percent of Americans think that abortion should be illegal after the first trimester, but under Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, states cannot restrict abortion before viability, late in the second trimester.

Americans don’t want the Roe regime. Perhaps the decline in the percentage that identify themselves as pro-choice will pave the way for political progress toward the consensus for limited abortion. With more than a third of Democrats identifying themselves as pro-life, maybe it will even become a bipartisan issue.

— Greg Pfundstein is executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation.

As with proponents of same-sex “marriage,” proponents of abortion and the culture of death have long used all kinds of media to try to convince the American people that they want something other than what they actually want. They’ve tried to put words in our mouths, thoughts in our minds, and, when allowed, even to speak for us as if we were in complete agreement with their efforts to redefine marriage or eviscerate life in the womb.

Yet, the American people have increasingly decided to speak for themselves on these matters and, just as the people of 31 states have actively upheld marriage in this country, they have also expressed a desire for a culture of life over a culture of death.

This is seen quite clearly in Gallup’s recent polling figures, where 50 percent of those polled considered themselves “pro-life,” while only 41 percent considered themselves “pro-abortion.”

As heartening as this is, here at the Alliance Defense Fund our intent is to continue standing with our allies around the country to convince an even larger portion of the remaining 41 percent to join us in ensuring that the culture of death is swallowed up in life.

— Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor who held various posts in the Departments of Justice and Interior during the Reagan administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defense Fund (, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

Last weekend, I attended a conference of social-science researchers where a variety of papers were presented covering survey methods and opinion trends. The final day of the conference, one of the researchers presented evidence that beliefs about abortion are influenced by one’s parents, and that the higher birth rate among pro-life identifiers has contributed to a flattening off of the prior trend toward increasing “pro-choice” identification.

This sparked an interesting discussion among the panelists and the audience about abortion’s unique nature as an issue, separate from the other “social issues” in the minds of Americans. One of the panelists, who was certainly no conservative, noted astutely that abortion differs from other issues on which trends have shown liberalization of belief because abortion is not “victimless.” But while the Gallup data do not suggest a shift in how Americans view the morality of abortion (most believe it is “morally wrong”), the trend toward higher “pro-life” identification suggests that in the last year there has been a shift in how the label is perceived. The data show that identification with the “pro-life” label has caught up to the number saying that they view abortion as “morally wrong,” seeming to indicate that some who previously agreed with the pro-life moral position but eschewed the label are now more comfortable embracing it.

— Kristen Soltis is the director of policy research at the Winston Group.

The results of Gallup’s poll on public attitudes regarding abortion are striking: A mere 41 percent self-identify as “pro-choice” (by far the most appealing description of those who support abortion rights), while a whopping 50 percent describe themselves as “pro-life.” This is the largest margin of pro-life support ever measured by Gallup since it began polling this question 17 years ago. What explains the shift?

First, advances in biomedical science and biotechnology (including especially in utero imaging technology) have made it impossible to resist the conclusion that the unborn child in the womb is, as a biological matter, a living member of the species Homo sapiens. She is one of us. Given Americans’ widespread intuitive commitment to human equality, it is a very short step to the realization that the failure to extend basic moral regard and legal protections to these immature and vulnerable members of the human family is gravely unjust.

Additionally, the pro-life movement is overwhelmingly populated by energetic, joyful, and humane people (including a large and growing contingent of young women), who demonstrate compassionate concern not only for the unborn child, but also for the mother facing an unplanned pregnancy, and the woman mourning her abortion. Moreover, alongside their loving witness, defenders of the unborn offer reasoned, sober arguments framed in terms that anyone can grasp, regardless of their ideological or religious commitments.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review