The Corner

Politics & Policy

Pew Poll Shows That a Majority of Democrats Favors Abortion Restrictions

Pro-life demonstrators hold signs in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., June 22, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Last week, the Pew Research Center released an analysis of the results of a previous survey the group conducted on life issues. The poll had surveyed more than 4,000 people between late July and early August 2019, asking them not only about their attitudes toward abortion but also about whether they agreed with their party’s stance on the issue.

The survey found that 59 percent of self-identified Democrats support some limits on abortion; only 40 percent said abortion should be “legal in all cases.” It also found that 29 percent of Democrats said they either agreed with Republicans on abortion policy or did not agree with either party’s position.

The demographic breakdown on this question was especially interesting. The survey found that Democrats with lower levels of formal education were less likely than other Democrats to express agreement with their party’s stance on abortion. Only 56 percent of Democrats with a high-school degree or less agreed with their party’s position, as opposed to 70 percent of Democrats overall.

This is an electorally significant finding, because voters with lower levels of formal education are likely to be a key demographic group for Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates in 2020. According to FiveThirtyEight, in 2016 Hillary Clinton polled 11 percentage points worse than Barack Obama did in 2012 in the 50 U.S. counties where the smallest percentage of the population had college degrees.

Another interesting finding was that younger Democrats (ages 18 to 29) were more likely than older Democrats to disagree with the party’s preferred abortion policies. The differences between Democrats in each age demographic were relatively small, but the discrepancies are nevertheless significant. Many abortion surveys conducted in the 1970s and 1980s showed that younger voters tended to be more sympathetic to legal abortion than older Americans. The fact that younger Democrats are now more likely than older Democrats to disagree with their party’s stance is noteworthy and suggests that younger Democrats might be more receptive to candidates willing to support some limits on abortion.

This Pew poll adds to the body of data showing that a significant percentage of Democrats are dissatisfied with the party’s position on abortion. Indeed, during the current election cycle, none of the two dozen Democrats who ran for president expressed support for either the Hyde Amendment or any significant limits on abortion, despite the fact that countless polls show that limits on late-term abortion and taxpayer funding of abortion are popular across a wide range of demographic groups. Even Biden, who once consistently supported the Hyde Amendment as a senator, reversed his position last June. Republicans would do well to continue highlighting the extremism of Democrats on life issues during the current election cycle and beyond.


Michael J. New — Michael New is an assistant professor of practice at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America and a senior associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
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