Last month, the Gallup polling organization released a national survey of 1,018 adults that reveals a majority of Americans want abortion to be illegal in all or most cases. Although there is a clear majority of Americans that want abortions illegal, almost half of adults polled still identified themselves as pro-choice.
The survey showed that 61 percent of Americans polled believe that abortion should be legal under no or only a select few circumstances. Gallup did not specify what the few circumstances would be in their question, but past polls indicate that rape, incest, and the life of the mother are likely exceptions in the minds of those surveyed. This number is much greater than the 37 percent who believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. This 24 percent difference shows that a majority of Americans are taking a Pro-Life stand.
Gallup used the study to break down the data to show the Pro-Life views of different demographics. Women take a stronger stance on Life than men: 24% of women want all abortions made illegal and 36% want almost all made illegal, while 19 % of men want all abortions illegal and 42% want most abortions to be illegal.
Americans also want abortion illegal across every age group. For those between 18-34 years old, 59 percent want all or most abortions illegal. This is almost identical to the 58 percent of 35-54 year olds who believe there should be laws against all or most abortions. The number increases to 64 percent of those over the age of 55 who are against the legality of abortion.
Predictably, Republicans are the most Pro-Life political party with 79 percent against legal abortions, while 60 percent of independents share this view, and only 44 percent of Democrats agree with that position.
The Gallup poll also asked Americans to label their views on abortion, and this is where the inconsistencies are revealed. Of all adults surveyed, 49 percent call themselves pro-choice and 45 percent classify their views as Pro-Life. It appears that there is a portion of those polled that have labeled their views incorrectly. Since over 60 percent of those surveyed believe that abortion should be illegal in almost all circumstances, a clear majority hold the Pro-Life position. Gallup has also shown that since 2002, over 50% of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong. If adults believe that abortion is morally wrong and should be illegal, they should classify their views as Pro-Life. The numbers show that this is not the case.
There could be several reasons that Americans participating in these surveys are slow to label themselves as Pro-Life. The fact that the mainstream media demonizes the Pro-Life movement as one of right wing and religious zealots might make people hesitant to portray themselves in this light. The wording of the survey could also influence how people answer the question. Survey questions rarely include specifics on what exceptions should be allowed, like rape, incest, or the mother’s life. Americans might think that they cannot be labeled Pro-Life if they affirm any of these exceptions. It is also possible that some are answering the question based on whether they believe Roe v. Wade will be overturned rather than a true understanding of Life issues.
Pro-Life organizations need to reach out to Americans and encourage them to classify themselves as Pro-Life. People need to be aware that if they believe abortion to be morally wrong and that it should be illegal, that constitutes a Pro-Life view. Educational outreach programs that stress a clear understanding of Life issues and what qualifies as a Pro-Life view are growing, with Texas Right to Life leading the way with our “Generation Now” scholars and high school REveAL summer camps.
For more information on this and other surveys visit: http://www.gallup.com/home.aspx