Gallup first: more Americans now “pro-life” than “pro-choice”
America may have a president and Congress that support abortion rights, but a new Gallup poll suggests that for the first time such a stance is not the majority view.
Gallup said on Friday that a new poll, conducted May 7 to 10, found “51 percent of Americans calling themselves ‘pro-life’ on the issue of abortion and 42 percent ‘pro-choice.’ This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.”
“The new results, obtained from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50 percent were pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life. Prior to now, the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46 percent, in both August 2001 and May 2002.”
Underscoring how divisive the issue remains, the poll further found that 23 percent of Americans felt abortion should be illegal in all circumstances and 22 percent said it should be legal in all circumstances.
Still, it found that 53 percent held to a middle view — that is should be legal in certain circumstances. That figure, Gallup said, has been steady since 1975.
A few other things stand out. The percentage of Republicans and those who lean to that party who lablel themselves “pro-life” rose by 10 percentage points over the past year to 70 percent. As there was essentially no shift among Democrats on this issue (33 percent said they were “pro-life,” unchanged since last year) much of the shift clearly came from the Republican side. Does this suggest a hardening among the party faithful, whose numbers have also been in decline, in reaction to the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama?
Much of the opposition to abortion in America has been faith-based, led mostly though not exclusively by conservative Catholics and evangelicals. The latter in particular have for decades been a key base of support for the Republican Party.
There has been much recent talk among the media and Republican strategists that the party needs to move away from divisive social issues like abortion and gay marriage in a bid to broaden a base which many see as shrinking. This poll will be ammunition for those who say the party needs to stick its guns on these issues.
The findings are sure to stir both sides of this emotional debate, especially as Obama seeks to fill a new vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, where the legality of issues such as abortion can ultimately be decided.
Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst - An anti-abortion protester holds a sign in front of the US Supreme Court building during the March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 22, 2009.