Last month, the Knights of Columbus released the results of a nationwide poll on attitudes toward abortion conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. Unlike many polls which only allow respondents to describe themselves as either “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” this poll asked a wide range of questions pertaining to abortion policy. It found substantial opposition to abortion in all but the most extreme circumstances. It also found broad support for incremental pro-life laws — even among Americans who self-identify as “pro-choice.”
The Knights of Columbus poll found that 47 percent of Americans identify as “pro-life,” which is consistent with the results of recent surveys conducted by Gallup and other opinion research groups. But the poll also found that substantial majorities think that 1) the abortion rate is too high; 2) abortion is morally wrong; and 3) abortion does more harm than good. And when asked about specifics, 59 percent of all respondents said abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape or incest, in cases where it’s necessary to save the life of the mother, or never at all.
Additionally, even though abortion remains a polarizing and divisive issue, the poll found that there is a substantial consensus on a range of incremental pro-life laws, even among people who identify as pro-choice. 65 percent of those who identify themselves as pro-choice support parental notice laws. 53 percent of pro-choicers oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. And nearly half of them support changing the law to allow some restrictions on abortion.
This poll should give pro-lifers hope. The media is quick to tout surveys which purportedly show that abortion is a low priority for most voters. They also frequently cite studies which show superficial support for legal abortion. This survey adds to a body of research which finds that a majority of Americans disapprove of the vast majority of the abortions that are performed in this country. It also shows very broad support for an impressive range of incremental pro-life laws. Despite the recent temporary setback in the effort to pass a national 20-week abortion ban, pro-lifers should continue to advocate for protective laws at both the state and federal levels.
— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.