The latest Gallup poll shows that more Americans now believe that abortion is morally acceptable rather than immoral, which is the first time it has happened since pollsters started asking this question in 2001. This is concerning to the pro-life community, but that might not be the whole story.
When it comes to abortion polling, it hasn’t been looking too promising for those that support life. Every year, it seems like more and more Americans support abortion or aspects of abortion.
This is reflected in the most recent Gallup poll, which shows that 47% of Americans think it is morally acceptable, and that 46% believe that it is morally wrong. This is the first time that more Americans are morally supportive of abortion than not, and it is up from a previous low point of 36% in 2009.
The conclusion is rather concerning for pro-life supporters—however, the percentage of the public that supports abortion tends to fluctuate. When the poll was first taken in 2001, 42% of Americans believed abortion was morally acceptable and 45% didn’t. So, technically, in the last two decades the number has varied a bit but has also been consistent. The poll was also evenly split at 45% in 2015.
Perhaps what’s more concerning is how this divide is reflected based on political parties. While the Republican statistic is pretty consistent between 2001 and 2021, the acceptability in the Democrat party has grown from 48% to 54%. When it comes to independents, it has also been remarkably consistent when compared to the last two decades, but it did dip at one point from 50% to 39%.
Gallup also looks at how Americans perceive themselves, either pro-life or pro-choice. That number is still close with 47% of the public being pro-life and 49% being pro-abortion. This perspective has seen the biggest shift, from 33% of the public considering themselves pro-life and 56% pro-abortion.
Most commentators look at this poll and believe that it reflects rather negatively on the pro-life movement, showing that the public is becoming more accepting of abortion. But that’s just part of the story. Like so many polls, the answers reflect how and what questions are asked.
Earlier this year, Students for Life revealed an in-depth study about the issue of abortion and how young people perceive the topic, which provides more insights than the Gallup poll.
For example, “more than 7 out of 10” young people between the ages of 18-34 “expressed support for limits on abortion.”
In addition, when explained that Roe v. Wade allows abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, about 6 out of 10 opposed the Supreme Court ruling. “Less than 2 out of 10 want unlimited abortion through all nine months, which Roe allows.”
When it comes to how readily women should be able to access abortion, Gallup asks its audience a rather vague question: should abortion be legal under any circumstances (32%), legal in most circumstances (13%), legal in only a few circumstances (33%) and illegal in all circumstances (19%).
This question almost entirely hinges on how a person defines “few” or “most” circumstances, and there could actually be a lot of overlap in terms of what limits people want when it comes to abortion.
In comparison, the Students for Life study asks more detailed questions about the issue of life and abortion. Per the report:
- 19 % Abortion should be allowed at any time during a woman’s pregnancy and for any reason.
- 19 % Abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother
- 15 % Abortion should be legal for any reason, but not after five months of pregnancy
- when the fetus is viable and can feel pain
- 15 % Abortion should be prohibited in all circumstances
- 14 % Abortion should be legal for any reason, but not after the first three months of pregnancy
- 8 % Abortion should be legal only to save the life of the mother
- 9 % Unsure/Depends
- 2 % Refuse
This provides a lot more information than Gallup, and essentially reflects that 29% believe there should be some limits. A shocking 42% of young Americans want abortion legal in only a narrow set of circumstances.
At the end of the day, though the poll released by one of the nation’s largest agencies is a bit concerning, it only shows part of the picture. Abortion remains divisive and is unsettled in the public square, and the youngest generation is definitely more interested in some pretty strong abortion restrictions.
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