The Corner

Politics & Policy

New Poll: Majority of Americans Would Vote for a Candidate Who Supports Abortion Restrictions

Marchers participate in the 2012 March for Life rally in Washington, D.C. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Marist polling has released its annual survey of public opinion on abortion, commissioned each year by the Knights of Columbus to track the way that Americans’ views on the issue have evolved over time. According to the results, 55 percent of Americans describe themselves as “pro-choice,” while only 40 percent say they’re “pro-life.”

But when it comes to specific policy questions, voters are far more supportive of abortion restrictions than one might think — and they support policies far more restrictive than what the Democratic party favors or the status quo created by courts will allow. In fact, the poll found that a plurality (46 percent) want the court to reconsider Roe v. Wade in a way that would allow each state to determine its own policies for restricting abortion.

Overall, seventy percent of respondents said they favor limiting abortion either to the first three months of pregnancy or to cases of rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life, or they favored not permitting abortion at all. Just 21 percent of respondents said abortion should be available at any stage of pregnancy, the position espoused by the Democratic party’s platform.

Interestingly, almost half of voters who identified as pro-choice similarly support restricting abortion to the first three months, to the “hard cases,” or not at all. Sixty percent of respondents, including about one-third of Democrats and pro-choice voters, oppose the use of taxpayer funds to cover the costs of abortion.

When it comes to how abortion affects voting habits, 65 percent of respondents said they’d be likely to vote for a candidate who supports restrictions on abortion. That includes an overwhelming majority of Republican respondents, as well as 62 percent of Independents and 44 percent of Democrats. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said a candidate’s stance on abortion would be a “major factor” in deciding how to vote, while 36 percent said it would be a “minor factor” and 25 percent said it wouldn’t matter to them.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans, including half of those who call themselves “pro-choice,” oppose abortion in cases when the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. More than half of respondents, meanwhile, favor legislation to prohibit abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a figure that include 43 percent of Democrats and a majority of Independents.

As it does every year, the Marist/Knights of Columbus poll offers useful context in the abortion debate. Far too often, proponents of abortion point to polls showing that most Americans identify as “pro-choice” or that seven in ten voters say they support Roe v. Wade. But abortion policy is far more complex than being “pro-choice” or “supporting Roe.” There are countless possible positions to take on abortion policy that fall somewhere in between Alabama’s near-total abortion ban and the Democratic party’s insistence on unlimited abortion, at any stage of pregnancy, for any reason, funded by taxpayers.

By asking Americans specific questions about individual policy proposals, this poll contributes to a more robust understanding of how exactly voters view abortion.

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