by Steven Ertelt
June 25, 2007
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A new study shows that the pro-life position on abortion has been gaining ground over the least fifteen years as more people identify themselves as pro-life. The new report shows a change in the public’s attitude on abortion at a time when then strategies of the pro-life movement shifted away from aggressive protesting.
Over the last 15 years, the pro-life movement has experienced a renaissance of sorts.
From the mid 1990s to the present, crisis pregnancy centers have come of age, the post-abortion community has presented the authentic face of abortion and pro-life groups have become more wise in how to present the pro-life message.
Abortions have been on a steady decline nationally and, in some states, are at their lowest levels since the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973.
The first national laws limiting abortions — such as the partial-birth abortion ban — are on the books.
The number of states adopting pro-life legislation has increased and, in states such as South Carolina, Mississippi, and Michigan, abortions have dropped as much as 50 percent or more because of those pro-life measures.
Missouri is one of those states that has passed most of the kinds of state abortion regulations the courts allow and one that has seen television campaigns with a softer sell of the pro-life perspective.
Those legislative efforts and new approaches are working.
That’s according to researchers Christopher Blunt, a political consultant at Overbrook Research, and Fred Steeper, a consultant at Market Strategies.
Blunt and Steeper compiled over 30,000 survey interviews, conducted statewide for a variety of Missouri campaigns between 1992 and 2006. In those interviews they asked respondents if they considered themselves "pro-life" or "pro-choice."
In 1992, fewer than one-third (30%) of Missouri voters called themselves pro-life, with just 26% admitting to be strongly pro-life. By contrast, 43% called themselves pro-choice, with 34% describing themselves as strongly pro-choice.
"In other words, there were more strong pro-choice advocates than total pro-lifers," the researchers wrote.
"By January of 1997, however, with partial-birth abortion the focus of public attention, the two camps reached a rough parity: 36% now called themselves pro-life (32% strongly pro-life), with 34% now pro-choice," the pair said.
The growth in the number of people who considered themselves pro-life didn’t stop in 1997, but continued as the debate on partial-birth abortion continued and the pro-life movement increased its emphasis on new approaches.
"These trends continued through the 1998 and 2000 election cycles, with strong pro-lifers growing to outnumber strong pro-choicers by a 36% to 23% margin. This spread has remained steady through the 2004 and 2006 election cycles," the authors of the study said.
Blunt and Steeper say the partial-birth abortion debate "had a significant impact on public perceptions of the abortion debate—and on perceptions of which side more clearly represents voters’ own values."
"As grisly details of partial-birth abortion procedures replaced confrontational (and often violent) clinic protests on the evening news, voters seemed to have changed their minds about who the ‘abortion extremists’ were," they said.
The study indicated that other polling data confirms their results.
It points to Gallup polls which show that abortion advocates enjoyed a 56 to 33 percent advantage over pro-life supporters on the self-identification question in the mid 1990s. Those numbers reached parity in 1998 after national saturation of the partial-birth abortion debate.
Today, abortion advocates hold a four percentage point lead (49 to 45 percent) although other polls show a pro-life advantage.
"This is a net swing of 19 points in the pro-life direction," the authors say.
Blunt and Steeper also looked at various subgroups to discover which predicated the change in attitude in Missouri on the issue of abortion over the last 14 years of polling data.
No matter how often a respondent went to church, they were more likely to become pro-life during that time, but Protestants were more likely to become pro-life than Catholics, who remained solidly against abortion during the years. Non-religious voters became more pro-life as well.
Men and women in Missouri both became more pro-life over the last 14 years with men going from 42-28 percent pro-abortion to 40-28 percent pro-life. Women shifted from 43-33 percent pro-abortion to 41-32 percent pro-life.
The increase in the pro-life numbers corresponded across all educational levels and age categories.
But, while both Democrats and Republicans saw pro-life numbers go up and pro-abortion numbers go down, the percentage of pro-life people from 1992 to 2006 shifted to the Republican Party as many pro-life Democrats left their party to join one that more accurately represented their views.
The researchers concluded that the strategy shifts of the pro-life movement in the last fifteen years have worked, based on their extensive data.
"No longer must pro-life leaders explain the presence of clinic bombers and other extremists within their movement," they said. "Instead, it is the pro-choice movement which must explain its support for partial-birth abortion and opposition to popular policies such as parental consent."
"Not only has the public been paying attention, but average voters have been drawing their own conclusions about who the abortion extremists are—and changing sides to reflect
those conclusions," the authors reported.
The researchers said political candidates who may have previously been reticent to support the pro-life movement should change their beliefs.
"Given how the public’s self-identification on abortion has changed, the pro-life label is no longer a disadvantage for candidates seeking public office," Blunt and Steeper concluded.
Related web sites:
Read the Blunt and Steeper study –