Gallup Poll: Majority of Americans Pro-Life on Abortion, Highest Levels in 15 Years

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 15, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Gallup Poll: Majority of Americans Pro-Life on Abortion, Highest Levels in 15 Years

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 15
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — A new Gallup poll shows that the majority of Americans self-identify as pro-life on the issue of abortion for the first time in 15 years. The Gallup survey shows the percentage of Americans saying they are pro-life at its highest point since 1995 and those saying they are "pro-choice" at its lowest.

The Gallup survey, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves pro-life and just 42 percent saying they are "pro-choice" and supporting legal abortions.

The poll finds a plurality of women say they are pro-life — with 49 percent saying so and just 44 percent saying they are "pro-choice." Men favor the pro-life position on a 54 to 39 percent margin. Both numbers are record highs for the pro-life position.

The 9 percent pro-life majority is a stark change from last year, when the Gallup survey showed a 6 percent majority in favor of abortion. Before the current poll Gallup had the pro-life percentage at its highest at 46 percent in both August 2001 and May 2002.

The Gallup poll also shows more Americans support making abortions illegal than at any point in the past 15 years.

About as many Americans now say abortions should be illegal in all circumstances (23%) as say it should be legal under any circumstances (22%). Another 53 percent of Americans say abortions should be legal, but only under certain circumstances.

Gallup does not define those circumstances, but other polling data shows a majority of Americans oppose the lion’s share of abortions, with a majority wanting abortions illegal except in cases such as saving the life of the mother, and rape or incest — which, combined, constitute less than 2-3 percent of all abortions.

Supplementing those other poll results, an expended Gallup question in its new survey found 50 percent of Americans want abortions illegal or illegal in most cases, while just 37 percent want abortions legal in all or most cases. The rest were unsure.

The results came in Gallup’s new Values and Beliefs survey, but the pro-life majority also showed up in Gallup’s daily tracking poll on a number of political issues.

There, the self-identifying question showed a 50-43 percentage point majority.

The reason for the new pro-life majority, Gallup indicates, is because Republicans are becoming more pro-life.

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%, while there has been essentially no change in the views of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Republicans now take a 70-26 percentage point pro-life view whereas Democrats support abortion 61-33 percent, with the numbers staying roughly the same over the last five to ten years.

The Gallup poll showed 71 percent of the people who say they are conservatives are pro-life, 45 percent of moderates say they are pro-life, and 19 percent of liberals say they are pro-life. The numbers are new highs over the last 15 years for the first two political groups while liberals have stayed at around the 20 percent mark for over a decade.

Gallup also showed pro-life increases among religious groups with 59 percent of Protestant Christians, a new high, saying they are pro-life. Some 52 percent of Catholics identify themselves as pro-life, tying a previous high, and 31 percent of people who identify with no religion say they are pro-life, one short of a previous high.

Gallup editor Lydia Saad suggests that President Barack Obama’s pro-abortion position is the cause of the pro-life shift.

"With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation’s policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans — and, in particular, Republicans — seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position," she writes.

"While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction," she adds.

Gallup’s results are based on telephone interviews with 1,015 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 7-10, 2009.

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