Last week, Gallup released its annual public-opinion poll on abortion policy, and its results contain some good news for abortion opponents. According to the survey, a plurality of Americans now identify as pro-life, with 49 percent of respondents calling themselves “pro-life,” and 46 percent calling themselves “pro-choice.” This is the first Gallup poll since 2013 in which a higher percentage of respondents identified as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.”
The new survey also found that the percentage of Americans who think abortion should either be “illegal in all circumstances” or “legal in only a few circumstances” increased from 53 to 60 percent between 2018 and 2019. A Gallup poll conducted in May, meanwhile, found that the percentage of Americans who consider abortion immoral reached 50 percent for the first time since 2012.
This gain in public support for the pro-life position is more significant than many observers realize. There is some evidence that pro-life sentiment tends to wane during Republican presidential administrations, as well as when abortion opponents are poised to make substantial policy gains. Some pro-life observers have been concerned that efforts to enact abortion limitations in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and a handful of other states might result in a public-opinion backlash. This new Gallup poll illustrates that this likely has not been the case. In fact, it is entirely possible that aggressive efforts by Democrats to make abortion policy more permissive in states such as New York, Vermont, and Illinois actually might have resulted in gains in pro-life sentiment.
Americans’ attitudes on abortion and other life issues inevitably fluctuate from year to year, which is why it’s important to remember the long-term gains the pro-life movement has made in public-opinion polling over time. In 1995, Gallup found that only 33 percent of Americans identified as “pro-life,” but since 1997, pro-life sentiment has reached at least 40 percent in every Gallup poll. In both 2009 and 2012, majorities of respondents to Gallup’s survey identified as “pro-life,” and pro-life efforts to educate the public likely have been an essential reason why the U.S. abortion rate has declined by more than 50 percent since 1980.