Gallup Found a Drop in Pro-Life Sentiment, but the Long-Term Gains Are Undeniable

by Michael J. New

Yesterday, Gallup released a survey on attitudes toward abortion that found a slight decrease in pro-life sentiment since their most recent poll in May 2013. Forty-six percent of respondents identified as “pro-life,” while 47 percent identified as “pro-choice.”

But the poll did contain some good news for pro-lifers: Gallup found that pro-lifers seem to care more about the issue when voting than pro-choicers – 24 percent of pro-lifers said that they would only vote for a candidate who shared their abortion views, while just 16 percent of people who identified as “pro-choice” said the same. This is consistent with surveys that show single-issue “pro-life” voters outnumbering single-issue “pro-choice” voters. In other words, contrary to media spin, taking a pro-life position should be politically advantageous.

But more important, much of the coverage of this poll will doubtless focus on the decline in pro-life sentiment, and ignore the long term progress that the pro-life position has made in the court of public opinion.

Gallup has been conducting survey research on abortion attitudes since the 1970s. Pro-life sentiment was as low as 33 percent as recently as 1995. But pro-life sentiment has increased consistently since that time. Gallup’s May 2009 poll was the first time where respondents were more likely to identify as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.” Six of the past ten Gallup polls have found respondents more likely to identify as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.” Overall, in other words, the pro-life position has made impressive progress in the court of public opinion, and one year’s survey shouldn’t be discouraging.

— Michael New is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New.

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