FaithWorld

Gallup first: more Americans now “pro-life” than “pro-choice”

May 15, 2009

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.

USA/

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. 

Comments
39 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

After seeing that they only polled a little over 1,000 people, I don’t really believe that this is a clear sample of United States opinion. Regardless of public opinion, reproductive rights are a private issue that should never be arbitrarily decided for everyone by a group of people whose primary defense for their reasoning is religious conviction.

Posted by nb | Report as abusive
 

The people with the loudest voice always seem to win. The decisions that effect us rarely represent the majority or stands up to reason.

 

I agree with nb that this is a very small sample of opinion and that reproductive rights are private and should only be decided by a woman and/or her doctor. I would also be interested in how the question was posed because often that determines to a great extent the response. I find it hard to believe that a majority of people would force a woman to have an unwanted baby or give her no choice in cases of her or a baby’s health.

Posted by amac | Report as abusive
 

A poll can sway responses by the way that questions are asked. Neither “pro-life” nor “pro-choice” mention abortion. I’m pro-life and pro-choice. I don’t think any life should be taken without very serious due process. Nor do I think that any woman should be told what to do with her own body. Does life begin at conception? Should someone who is pregnant because she was raped be forced to have that child? I can still remember the Sherry Finkbein case where a woman chose to abort a fetus that would have been severely disabled (because the mother had taken an FDA-approved drug – thalidomide – which it turned out had a horrible effect on the unborn). She had to do it in another country. That kicked off the debate which is still raging. I am against black and white answers to questions that are many shades of gray.

Posted by Abarafi | Report as abusive
 

As with any issue, in a democracy or republic, laws should reflect the mores of the society that is governed. Thankfully we started our country with a logical, reasonable and MORAL constitution, based on Christian principles. As our moral core and fundamental beliefs have decayed over the years, we have been swept up in being convinced that “Killing another human” is justified, even in the womb. The key argument for most, is when does the embryo become a person? Most would agree that it may be acceptable to abort in the first two or three months of pregnancy for health or social reasons/justification.
What would most people say, if the state started demanding drug addicts and HIV positive women to have abortions and started to convict them for bringing drug addicted and sick children into our society. There would be rioting in the streets against such laws, such that existed in China.
As the Federal Government continues to make laws, that over ride state and local laws, we will continue to see a decrease in our individual rights.
The issue of whether to have an abortion or not is a very private matter for most women. If we are going to have laws forbidding it, then we will once again force people into criminal behavior.
Let’s keep the right to choose to the woman and her beliefs and not force another persons religious beliefs on society as a whole, as was done in the past.

Posted by Steve Boyd | Report as abusive
 

NB – Most scientific surveys only poll 1,000 or so people.

In regards to your other point, there is nothing “private” about the question of when human life begins (a scientific question) and at what point the government has a duty to protect life (a question of justice). The “privacy” argument is an attempt to avoid those questions.

Surely you wouldn’t want to say that a parent has the right to abuse their child in their own home. You would probably say that that is not an issue of “privacy” because the child is a separate human being who has a right not be physically harmed. I agree.

The question of which human lives are worth protecting must be decided through public debate and then ultimately law. Privacy has nothing to do with it.

Posted by GG | Report as abusive
 

Whether a true shift has occurred is uncertain and is further confounded by issues of sampling error. However, even assuming the poll accurately reflects public tendencies toward self-labeling (“life” vs “choice”), it’s not clear that it reflects a fundamental shift in opinions about policy. The poll shows that a majority (53%) believe abortion should be legal in some but not all circumstances, and this figure has been remarkably constant over the past 35 years. Similarly, there has been little change in the extremes – 23% believing it should be legal always, and 22% never. In essence, most who label themselves “pro-life” support the availability of abortion in some circumstances, and the same is true for those who label themselves “pro-choice”. At this point, it is reasonable to conclude that the majority of Americans hold a moderate position on abortion and reject the extremes, and that this moderate stance has little prospect of changing dramatically in the future.

 

Great resources to help people think clearly about the abortion issue: http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsA rticle&id=5349

Posted by JR | Report as abusive
 

GG – Agreed that once “humanness” is established, the public has an interest in what goes on. A parent does not have a “private” right to abuse his/her child; but neither does teh public have the right to demand that child be raised in a specific way absent abuse (recall the Terry Schiavo case).

Currently the law is that an embryo is not a human being. Thus, it is a matter of “privacy” what the preganant women chooses to do with that not yet human part of her body.

Posted by JC | Report as abusive
 

JC – I acknowledge your point about the current legal status of embryos. But the abortion debate is not just about the legal status of embryos. And my main point was not about current law currently says. Just because a law exists doesn’t mean it should exist. That’s why in a democracy we should continually debate the merits of our our laws and change them if we believe they are unjust. My main point was that the claim of “privacy” is not sufficient to quell the debate.

A couple other quick points – 1. A zygote, embryo, fetus… is not a “part” of the woman’s body. It is more accurate to say that it is a genetically unique body developing within the woman’s body.

2. A woman cannot do whatever she wants with the embryo. For instance, the law forbids her to sell it.

3. The law is very inconsistent when it comes to the legal status of further developed members of the human species that are still in the womb. Sometimes people are charged for double murder when they kill a pregnant woman.

Posted by gg | Report as abusive
 

What is significant about this poll is not the numbers, but the way the question is asked.

For decades now, the fundamental anti-abortion movement has defined itself as “prolife.” Who is NOT going to say they’re “prolife”? This is a significant shift in self-perception that has been created by a steady stream of reasonable people who believe abortion should be a decision made by a woman and her doctor being shamed with the “baby killer” label.

Want proof? Ask one of the “prolife” respondents what would happen if his/her 12 or 13 year old daughter is the one who’s pregnant. Or ask a person who identifies as pro-life how many months a pregnant woman should spend in jail for trying to get an abortion. If you are opposed to abortion, then you must believe abortion is murder – that makes visiting an abortion clinic attempted murder, and having an abortion premeditated murder. When do we start putting women in prison? And what about those states with the death penalty, will they be executing women for having abortions?

This question really doesn’t lend itself to something as shallow as a Gallup poll. But it is troubling for anyone who values medical privacy and reproductive freedom.

Posted by Joni Golden | Report as abusive
 

The source of the shift in abortion views is clear in the Gallup Values and Beliefs survey. The percentage of Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) calling themselves “pro-life” rose by 10 points over the past year, from 60% to 70%

Gallup over sampled republicans and republican leaning voters that are now almost completely made up of the extreme right wing. Most and moderately conservatives, moderates and liberal don’t id themselves as republicans anymore. The republican id has shrunk down to the high 20′s low 30′s and Gallup and pew over sampled this group.

Posted by Orin | Report as abusive
 

Let’s not pick and choose whether or not this poll is accurate or not by complaining it only sampled 1000 or so people.

Throughout the presidential campaign, almost all daily polls were conducted with a random sampling of 1000 or so people. They proved to very accurate and Obama won by about the same percentage as these polls indicated.

Not one Obama supporter complained about those polls then, and no one should complain about the abortion poll now. It is as accurate as the presidential polls were.

Face it folks, the majority in this country think abortion is wrong. That doesn’t mean those people want the federal government to regulate who has an abortion or not, just that they think it is wrong. I don’t know why this should be news to anyone. Unfortunately, the vocal left has won…for now. But they aren’t in the majority and never will be.

So, don’t cherry pick the 1000 person polls when it suits your side. The pollsters have this down to a science. However, I am surprised Gallup were the ones to come up with this result. They tend to lean in the liberal direction in their results. So, since they came up with this result must mean it is true…because it is true.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive
 

Pro choice is not about a religious belief, it is about an ethical standard. There is no way to justify killing a baby. If someone killed a pregnant lady by being drunk and driving, they would be charged with two murders. What is the difference if a doctor is doing it or not?

Posted by Kyle | Report as abusive
 

I am one of those folks that thinks the number of abortions in this country are way too high, but I also feel that not much is done to prevent unwanted pregnancies by sex education and the use of contraceptives. But can I declare myself pro-life? No. Why? Because of all the political baggage that goes with it, including accepting the right-wing notion that the poor are responsible for their poverty and should be made to have babies to “punish” them for being poor. How much is done in this country to make women feel that they can have their children and not be socially stigmatized for it? I hear right-wing pundits on all the news shows trash welfare mothers (the code word here is “black”) all the time while insisting we should end abortion. I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. Either you respect mothers and motherhood and work to develop a country in which every mother feels she and her child are welcome, or you do more to develop a country in which women and men do not believe a person’s worth is not measured by how many kids they have. You also don’t cut funds educational funds, especially for higher education (as they are doing in Louisiana). I teach at a publically-funded university and have a lot of single mothers who are trying to get out of the cycle of poverty through education, but we’re facing serious budget cuts here to that education, even though we are 50th in the nation in health care and education. What sense does that make?

We also need to get serious about providing sex education (not just abstinance-only) in schools. I remember reading a few years ago that France had very low number of abortions and teen pregnancies. Why? Well, France provides secondary school students with information on the prevention of pregnancy to teenagers, as well as condoms. In the puritan USA, such a thing would be shocking! Why, we’d rather have them have their babies than be taught how to keep from having them!

So until our society values all children equally and tries to make this country a welcoming place for children past the moment of birth, or until it gets serious about sex education and contraception, I don’t see how I can support a pro-life movement that is not interested in attacking the problem in practical ways.

Posted by Denise | Report as abusive
 

Please consider that this issue is not a ‘choice’ when the person on the other end of that choice is the one who pays the price with their life.

Posted by Linda Dreger | Report as abusive
 

One thing to look at with the poll is the margin of error: 3 points for the current poll.
If the margin of error for the previous poll was also 3 points then it is not correct to say there has been a shift.
In fact, statistically the numbers for the two polls are unchanged.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive
 

TC — Face what the poll results say: 53% think abortion is acceptable under some circumstances, and 22% think it should be acceptable under any circumstances. Only 23% think it should be illegal under all circumstances. That means 3 out of 4 people think it is acceptable sometimes.

That does not translate to ” a majority think it’s wrong”, except in your mind.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive
 

There will always be abortions performed, no matter what the law says. So, keep the procedure safe and legal or return to the era of coat hangers and desperate women?

Posted by Mb | Report as abusive
 

Once again, people make the pro-choice decision based on supposed, self-centered, privacy. No matter that the unborn cannot speak for themselves, yet can still silently scream as they’re murdered because they’re an “inconvience”. The sooner they outlaw abortion (which may make people face the consequences of having an unplanned child) the better. An this comes from someone conceived out of wedlock to a 16 year old with a har father 30 years ago, so really fit the mold of someone who could have been.

Posted by Samuel | Report as abusive
 

How about a survey asking who supports the constitution, (the whole thing, and not only the parts convenient to one’s current agenda).

If the continual onslaught from the religious right would realize that without the constitution, the Anglican Church could have been declared a state church, and they would be marginalized at best, criminalized at worst.

You can’t have it both ways. If you hide behind the constitution to protect YOUR freedom of speech, association and lifestyle, you MUST respect the same proected rights of others, or invite a usurpation of the constitution.

If you want to live in a religious theocracy, move to Iran. Just don’t tell them you’re Christian.

Posted by Brian Foulkrod | Report as abusive
 

It’s funny how the people who support such a strong view of constitutional rights are able to bend their views when it suits them. The number of deaths by guns each year far exceeds the number of death by abortion and yet they strongly defend any attempt to bring some sanity to our gun laws which could prevent a large number of gun deaths, yet they find it easy to ignore this huge drain on our society but find it much easier to try to change what is a small percentage of deaths in the US.

 

All of the following statistics are for the year 2004, the last year for which there is a CDC report available.

For starters, let’s look at the national abortion rate. This statistic – the rate of abortions in all the areas that do report to the Federal Government compared to the number of live babies born in those same areas, shows that there are 239 unborn babies aborted in the U.S. for every 1,000 babies born in the U.S every year. Or, to simplify the math, for every five babies born in this country, one unborn baby is aborted.
* Note the above was copied from thevaluesvoter.spaces.live.com/blog. If true, then vastly worse than most people believe. The CDC used to be a source of information. I understand California does not even report the mumber anymore. Gee, do you think the numbers in California might be high. When life is cheap, who needs to give a damn? I hope the pro-abortion crowd are re-thinking their values.

Posted by picomanning | Report as abusive
 

I don’t think all things can be made either black or white, pro-life or pro-choice. The whole area is grey.

First, who is anyone to decide what is right for me or for anyone for that matter. If the government starts making decisions for us in regards to our bodies, where it end? Should a woman who has been brutally raped be forced to give birth to a child? Or if a child has been molested by her father should she be forced to give birth? Perhaps, for some yes, but for others, it just maybe too painful. In those rare but unfortunate GREY circumstances black and white isn’t always the answer. Do we not have an societal obligation to those people as well?

Choice and our freedom of it why most of us decide to live in the US. For me, it has never been about the life of a child, but more importantly and yes this is more important as it affects the greater part of society, is the ability for the government to come in and decide what is right for each of us.

Secondly, why is it that when people do not like something they immediately want to ban it? Isn’t knowledge power? Or have be become a society of such drones that we can not longer think for ourselves? Instead of banning something, why can we not have a better system of providing the patient with their options and choices. Explain the benefits of both sides and therefore allowing them to make an informed decision. Is that not an option?

Posted by Lisa jaswinski | Report as abusive
 

As of some years ago, a Catholic woman was twice as likely as average to get an abortion, so maybe they should hand out condoms at mass.

It’s probably almost futile to say this here, but for those who realize that the brain is nothing but a material computer, from whence arise feelings that must be respected, it’s absolutely critical to realize that the neurons in the fetus can’t fire each other until after the 3rd month of gestation, so a “baby” during that time is no more a human life than is a red blood cell living in a blood bank. It doesn’t feel, and if it’s a problem it should be gotten rid of.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive
 

This may be a first for Gallup and Reuter’s reporting, I don’t know. What I do know that they have discovered nothing new–the majority of Americans have been opposed to abortion ever since it became legal.

Posted by Rational Thinker | Report as abusive
 

For those of you criticizing the, “Pro-abortion,” believers, we are not, “Pro-abortion,” we are simply for choice. I would think that those of you who are vehemently against abortion would about face if it were your daughter’s mental welfare or life on the line. I cannot imagine anything worse than an unwanted child. There are already so many in this world that are abused & neglected. Why don’t you bleeding hearts do something for them besides praying & parading in front of women’s clinics & hospitals with your signs to end abortion. I’m sure you could do much more good.

Posted by Liz | Report as abusive
 

To Pete Cann:

Regardless of when neurons begin to exhibit self stimulation (16 gestational weeks actually), a human being is a human being at the moment of conception because of the unique cosmic POTENTIAL significance they have themselves, not the feelings and thoughts they induce in others. Based on your flawed argument, we should murder all children born with severe brain deformities…. they’re “a problem” and their brain activity isn’t normal, and they don’t have feelings that must be respected.

This debates boils down to: is life sacred? And in a larger sense, for many people on the pro-choice side, is ANYTHING sacred? Does the word ‘sacred’ mean anything to someone who is pro-choice (other than as a synonym for ‘an inconvenience drummed up by Bible-thumpers’). In the final analysis, if one side of a debate declares something ‘sacred’, and the other side of the debate declares that that word has no real meaning, there is little room for compromise. There is only tension. This debate is about the definition of humanity, and like the slavery debate 150 years ago, it probably won’t be settled through compromise. It will continue to fester until something gives somewhere.

Posted by JR | Report as abusive
 

You know what…

we are all gods little ants running around with our heads off

we are primitive as heck and serioulsly have no idea about anything…

we are nothing but hypocrites!

and especially all of the churches and denominations of christianity.

if anyone…even the pope thinks he knows the answers to these things

they are wrong!!!

Posted by jack | Report as abusive
 

To JR:

Thanks for a well-expressed criticism. (But I never meant to say that thoughts and feelings induced in one person affected the appropriateness of another living.)

I support euthanasia when appropriate, and I think euthanasia deserves much more consideration when a child is born into pointless suffering, or with no thinking or feeling ability at all. I’m very unusual in this, I think. So you accuse me of nothing that shames me there.

“Sacred” is a hot-button word that means many, conflicting things to many people. I don’t require the word, but if we keep it in common usage I would suggest that it be defined to mean feelings, and promoting the quest to abolish suffering.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive
 

Is the use of Birth Control an appropriate suggestion here?

Posted by Papa Jones | Report as abusive
 

Here’s what happens when the religious right mandates its will on the rest of us. From Reuters, no less.

MANAGUA, Oct 2 (Reuters) An outright ban on abortion in Nicaragua has caused the deaths of at least 80 women since it was imposed 11 months ago.
Women with risky pregnancies whose lives might be saved by aborting the fetus are dying because of the ban on terminations in any circumstance.

A week before Nicaragua’s Nov. 5, 2006, election, lawmakers extended a ban on abortions to include rape victims and women who risk dying in childbirth, angering women’s rights activists and medical groups.

Under the law, pushed by the previous conservative government and Nicaragua’s powerful Roman Catholic Church, women who abort or doctors who help them risk three years or more in prison.

Aside from the blow to women who become pregnant after rape or incest, the law is viewed as risking the lives of the some 400 women who suffer dangerous ectopic pregnancies in Nicaragua each year.

The law’s timing was seen as central to its success, as left-wing lawmakers reluctantly supported it to help Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega get the Church’s backing to sweep back to power.

When Ortega was first in power, after his 1979 revolution, his government reaffirmed the right to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape, incest or if a woman’s life was at risk.

This is what the religious right wants for America.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive
 

In a statistical sample, 1000 is a perfectly valid number to survey. Getting more data points only lowers that margin of error; if everyone in the country were asked, the margin of error would be zero. That being said, I’d suggest that something that may have changed is what people consider to be pro-life vs. pro-choice. In a more detailed study it may have been found that people no longer considered the two mutually exclusive and have in fact moved toward the middle ground where the ideal solution would be to minimize the need for abortion by promoting contraception first, then adoption, with abortion only as a last resort, in other words that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I’d also like to throw out an additional question I think the anti-abortion absolutists may want to address. If they contend life begins at conception and conception begins before implantation of the fertilized egg on the wall of the uterus, doesn’t that mean they should also be against any type of IUD since they work by preventing that implantation? That would be the logical conclusion from their stated position, but I’ve never heard them say anything about IUDs being aborcifactants and thus abhorrent to their beliefs on the matter. If they’re really that absolutist in their position, let them say so so that all women who use IUDs as their form of birth control will know just where they stand in the pro-lifers range of moral certitude.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive
 

In reply to JR;

LIFE
a question is
if
you were asked to die to be born
would you choose to leave
peace,love,joy and contentment
so-choose-so
if
to die is to be born to
pain,grief,sorrow and despair
could you choose
so-choose-so
as tears are to joy and sorrow
so-choose-so

Posted by DAVID | Report as abusive
 

I belive 2 things.

1.abortion,like drugs, is an issue that should addressed with harm reduction and prevention, Obama said it well at Notre dame, lets decrease the need for abortion, make adoption and contraception more available. prohibition only creates crime and criminals and breeds fear.

2. babies are cute, its all well and good to save them before they are walking talking humans, but walking talking children don’t have proper schooling, and in other countries our bombs tend to hit them more often than they should be, those who have already been born are suffering greatly, and all too often the conservative mindset that leads to “pro-life” is also responsible for “pro-business” which keeps under its blanket child labor and the exploitation of poorer countries in general, and the sentiment that we should be dropping bombs in certain places more often, which tend to not care who they blow up, no matter how “smart”.
it is doublethink, plain and simple,
and the idea of banning abortion all together is madness and a testament to the limited understanding of its implications and the obtuse moral misdirection of ill-informed Americans.

Posted by jeremy | Report as abusive
 

CORRECTION:

For those who would use the “gun” argument in an attempt to discredit conservatives…

The CDC released numbers on gun deaths for 2005 which yielded approximately 30,694 deaths. My former 17,000 tally only included suicides.

The abortion totals from the CDC for 2004 (~982,000) would require that annual gun death year for over -32- consecutive years just to tie a SINGLE year of abortions.

Red Herring. Red Herring. Red Herring.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive
 

Americans pioneered for the protection of the rights of the animals. Ironically, America today is leading to promote abortion leaving the rights of the unborn trampled and unprotected. They think that the little body inside the womb is nothing.

But now this is a good sign that the survey showed majority of the Americans are now anti abortion. No one has the right to kill a human being on whatever stage the latter might be. More human beings are being killed than pigs everyday with the promotion of abortion. This should not be countenanced.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive
 

i read some stats that suggested that abortion rates in democratic leaning families is considerably higher than in their conservative counterparts.in fact the suggestion was that if abortions had not been made legally more available,the prospect of a republican elected government would have been extremely remote.keeping this in mind it is also suggested that by the year 2026 there could be estimated about 50,000,000 muslims here in america,this voter group will not advocate the extermination of children.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive
 

I actually do see some truth in what pro – life activists think. For example, it WOULD be our duty to oppose the law if we lived in nazi Germany, to try to prevent a holocaust. But I see one huge and insurmountable difference between nazi Germany and the current state of abortion rights. That is that, right now, the mother decides. The pregnant woman makes the terrible, sad, and personal decision. If the state forced her to have a baby that she could not care for, did not want, or that would kill her in delivery, that would be the real nazi analog.

Though fetuses are living humans, there are worse things that can happen to a person than never being born. And all of those things happen to children born to underage, underprivileged, and troubled parents. If a baby gets born but is never loved, that is a worse outcome to me. I recently read that people who experience any detrimental childhood circumstances are 5 times more likely to die from suicide. If the mothers have children when and only when they can take care of them, there will be more lives worth living.

Posted by Mark Pauline | Report as abusive
 

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