The Corner

Culture

New Gallup Poll Finds Relative Stability in Public Opinion on Abortion

Anti-abortion marchers rally at the Supreme Court during the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

This week, Gallup released some additional results about public opinion on abortion from its annual “values and beliefs” poll. The results provide further evidence that public attitudes toward abortion have remained fairly stable during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the new poll found that 46 percent of Americans identify as “pro-life,” while 48 percent identify as “pro-choice.” Overall, the percentage of people who identified as pro-life has fallen by three points since last year’s Gallup survey. The same poll found that 70 percent of Americans favor some restrictions on abortion, another slight decline from last year’s Gallup poll.

The demographic breakdown of the results is fairly unsurprising. Partisanship and political ideology both remain very strong predictors of abortion attitudes, and older Americans are more likely to identify as “pro-life” than younger Americans. However, the differences in abortion attitudes between various age demographics are small, which is noteworthy because many abortion surveys conducted during the 1970s and 1980s found a substantial generation gap in abortion attitudes. At that time, many young adults were far less likely to oppose abortion than were senior citizens. The fact that the current generation of young adults is more likely to identify as pro-life than previous generations were is a reason for pro-lifers to remain hopeful.

Long term, there have been very durable gains in pro-life sentiment. Gallup polls conducted in 1995 and 1996 indicated that less than 37 percent of Americans identified as “pro-life.” When the results from Gallup polls conducted between 1995 and 2009 are averaged, “pro-choice” outpolled “pro-life” by six points. However, over the past decade, the pro-life position has reached parity with the pro-choice position. The 14 polls Gallup has conducted on this issue since 2010 show that an average 47 percent of Americans identify as pro-life, and an average 47 percent identify as “pro-choice.”

Since 2010, abortion attitudes in the United States have been relatively stable, and this is a more important finding than many realize. During the past ten years, Americans have become wealthier and are achieving higher levels of formal education. Meanwhile, as the results from other questions in Gallup’s values-and-beliefs poll indicate, Americans are adopting increasingly permissive views on a range of social issues. Many years of schooling, high-income levels, and liberal views on social issues are all strongly correlated with support for legal abortion. As a result, it is an impressive fact that support for the pro-life position has remained stable in the face of these strong cultural headwinds. It is a testament to effective pro-life educational efforts and to the enduring dedication of pro-life activists across the country.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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