Gallup just released a new poll on abortion. Historically, more Americans have identified themselves as “pro-choice” than “pro-life.” This trend reversed in 2009. For example, last year 47% of American adults identified themselves as “pro-life,” and 45% identified themselves as “pro-choice.” The new poll indicates that the tables have reversed themselves again. Now a slight majority self-identify with the pro-choice label (49% vs 45%).
While labels are helpful in gauging public opinion, people have different understandings of what “pro-life” and “pro-choice” mean. For example, someone could understand these terms to refer to one’s position on the legality of abortion, in which case a person who is personally opposed to all abortion but thinks people should have the legal right to an abortion may identify as “pro-choice.” The real test of Americans’ views on abortion comes to light when more specific questions are asked. For example, when asked whether abortion is morally wrong, 51% agreed while only 39% disagreed. This confirms that many adopting the pro-choice label do so as a reflection of their political views related to abortion, not their moral views.
Consider also the question of the circumstances under which abortion should be permitted. 50% of Americans think abortion should only be legal in some circumstances. Of that number, 61% think it should only be legal in a few circumstances (31.5% of Americans). 22% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. That means 53.5% of Americans reject the current Roe and Doe abortion-on-demand law. Only 27% of Americans think women should have the right to get an abortion under any circumstances, for whatever reason. Clearly, America is more pro-life than the average “pro-life vs. pro-choice” polls reveal.
Another interesting finding from the Gallup poll is that men and women have nearly identical views on abortion. This is in contrast to abortion supporters who paint a picture of pro-life supporters as consisting primarily of white males. Not so.