Politics & Policy

Abortion and the Gender Gap: the Numbers

(Gallup, Inc.)
Gender doesn’t explain abortion views, and abortion policy doesn’t explain Republicans’ gender gap.

Watching some television chatter the other night, I heard a guest say, and the host agree, that abortion is an important reason for the “gender gap” between the parties. I was aware that polling had generally not found big differences between men and women in attitudes toward abortion policy. But I hadn’t checked the numbers in a few years. What, I wondered, did the recent evidence show?

So I contacted Gallup. As I expected, there hasn’t generally been a large gap between men and women on the “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” question. In 2007, they found 46 percent of men and 45 percent of women calling themselves “pro-life.” In 2011, the numbers were 46 and 44. The most recent data point we have, though, from 2012, does show a bigger gap than usual: 53 percent of men and 46 percent of women identified as “pro-life” in Gallup’s 2012 poll. (Both men and women were more likely to call themselves “pro-life” than “pro-choice.”) This could, however, be a blip. Check in next year.

The last time Gallup asked questions about the circumstances under which abortion should be legal was in 2011. There was no consistent gender gap in the results. Men were slightly more likely to take the pro-choice side on some questions: more likely than women to say that abortion should be legal when the mother’s life is in danger, when her physical health was threatened, when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, and in the second and third trimesters; less likely to favor mandatory ultrasound laws, or waiting periods, or parental consent.

#ad#On other questions, though, it was women who tilted slightly more pro-choice, or less pro-life. They were less likely than men to support bans on partial-birth abortion. They were more likely to think abortion should be legal when the child is physically impaired, or when the parents cannot afford a child (or another one), or in the first trimester. A combined 59 percent of men said that abortion should be legal either in no circumstances or in only a few; 56 percent of women chose those responses.

Women were slightly more likely than men to take polarized views — more likely, that is, to say either that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances or that it should be legal under all circumstances.

The gender gap doesn’t appear to shrink, or do anything consistently, for Republican politicians who are pro-choice, according to exit polls. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a strong pro-lifer, won 57 percent of men and 48 percent of women in 2010. Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada, who’s pro-choice, won 57 percent of men and 49 percent of women. In 2006, pro-life senator Jim Talent of Missouri did 6 points better among men than women in his losing bid for re-election; pro-choice senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island did 7 points better among men in his own race the same year.

If the Gallup and exit-poll data are right — and they’re consistent with other polls I’ve seen over the years — then it’s hard to see any evidence that differences between the sexes in views about abortion policy drive the gender gap between parties, in part because there’s not much evidence that such views vary much by gender.

— Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor of National Review

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Elections

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
Film & TV

A Sublime Christian Masterpiece of a Film

‘There are two ways through life -- the way of nature and the way of grace,” remarks the saintly mother at the outset of The Tree of Life, one of the most awe-inspiring films of the 21st century. She continues: Grace doesn’t try please itself. It accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked, accepts insults ... Read More
PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More
PC Culture

Changing Reality with Words

The reinvention of vocabulary can often be more effective than any social protest movement. Malarial swamps can become healthy “wetlands.” Fetid “dumps” are often rebranded as green “landfills.” Global warming was once a worry about too much heat. It implied that man-made carbon emissions had so ... Read More