On Thursday a poll released by the Pew Research Center provided additional evidence about the growing pro-life sentiment in America. As recently as 2008, Pew found that that those in favor of keeping abortion legal outnumbered opponents by 14 percentage points. However, as of this month the difference shrunk to 2 points — within the margin of error. This is consistent with other surveys released this spring by groups like Gallup which show that an increasingly higher perecentage of Americans are willing to describe themselves as pro-life. In fact, this spring’s Gallup Poll showed that for the first time, a majority of Americans (51 percent) were willing to describe themselves as pro-life.
Many pundits state that this increase in pro-life sentiment is due to the fact that we now have a president who supports legal abortion. There is probably some truth to this. President Obama has certainly galavanized opponents of abortion. His actions — coupled with the negative publicity generated by pro-life groups — has probably led some people with conflicting views on the issue to self-identify as pro-life.
However, an overlooked reason for this shift in public opinion is because the most visible pro-choice elected official in America is really not a very articulate proponent of abortion rights. When asked about sanctity-of-life issues, President Obama almost never defends legal abortion. Instead, President Obama seems a little dodgy and somewhat evasive. He often mentions the need to find common ground an expresses and interest in trying to reduce the abortion rate. Now on the policy side, he has done nothing to offer much encouragement to pro-lifers. However, President Obama’s unwillingness to make a solid case for legal abortion is likely weakening pro-choice sentiment.
— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama and a visiting fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.