The Corner

One Poll Result Shouldn’t Distract from the Long-Term Increase in the Pro-Life Movement’s Popularity

This morning, Gallup released results of a survey on U.S. attitudes toward abortion. According to the poll, 50 percent of Americans identify as “pro-choice,” while only 44 percent identify as “pro-life.” This marks the first time in seven years that a majority of Americans have identified as “pro-choice,” and follows the results of another Gallup survey released earlier this week on the morality of various social issues. The percentage of Americans who deemed abortion “morally acceptable” increased by about three percentage points between 2013 and 2015.​ 

Results of this morning’s Gallup poll have already been covered by a number of news outlets including Politico, The Hill, and VoxIt’s difficult to say what caused this increase in “pro-choice” sentiment. There is some research which shows that the more aggressive side in the abortion debate sometimes loses ground in the court of public opinion. And pro-lifers have been very productive in enacting laws at the state level during the past few years. It may also be attributable to a quirk in the sample. A separate set of questions asked by Gallup shows 55 percent of Americans think abortion should either be illegal or legal in only a few circumstances. This finding is broadly consistent with past Gallup surveys.

Regardless of the results of today’s poll, it is indisputable that pro-lifers have made durable, long-term gains in the court of public opinion. A 1995 Gallup poll found that only 33 percent of Americans identified as “pro-life.” Through 2008, 18 consecutive Gallup polls had “pro-choice” outpolling “pro-life.” It was only in May 2009 that the poll found that pro-life sentiment exceeded 50 percent for the very first time. Overall, “pro-life” has outpolled “pro-choice” in six of the last eleven Gallup polls. Pro-lifers should thus keep up the good progress they have made changing hearts and minds — and not fret over the results of one survey.

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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