New Gallup Poll: Because of Obama, More Americans Still Pro-Life on Abortion
by Steven Ertelt
August 4, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Following on the heels of a survey showing a majority of Americans calling themselves pro-life for the first time in over a decade, a new Gallup survey out today shows more Americans say they are pro-life on abortion than "pro-choice."
The poll found a 47 percent plurality of Americans say they are pro-life compared with 46 percent who say they support abortion.
Another seven percent of the people polled couldn’t say whether they aligned themselves more with the pro-life movement or the pro-abortion position.
Editors at Gallup say the trend towards the pro-life position is due to the pro-abortion record of President Barack Obama.
Although the figure is lower than the 51 percent who called themselves pro-life in the May Gallup survey, Gallup editor Lydia Saad admitted that "both 2009 readings show more Americans labeling themselves ‘pro-life’ than has been the case in recent years."
The May 7-10, 2009, Gallup survey found a significantly higher percentage of Americans identifying themselves as "pro-life" by a 51-42 percent margin. The Gallup Poll Daily tracking from May 12-13 found a similar result.
The new poll is the first one to have been conducted after the shooting death of late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller, which received considerable media coverage. The shooting, allegedly done by someone who has no ties with the pro-life movement, likely temporarily deflated the number of Americans who call themselves pro-life. As such, a Gallup poll conducted further after the incident would likely see a return to the May figures.
Saad appears to acknowledge that the polls constitute a true shift in Americans’ thinking on abortion.
"On a long-term basis, both 2009 measures, although differing slightly from one another, indicate a modest shift toward the ‘pro-life’ position," she writes.
Gallup’s new survey included a second question that has been panned as inadequate for measuring public opinion on abortion.
Gallup asks, "Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances."
The results show 21% say abortion should be legal without exceptions while 18% say it should be illegal without exceptions. Another 57 percent take the "legal under certain situations" position.
The question fails to define when abortions occur and the true abortion position of the glut of Americans who don’t fall into either of the absolute positions can’t be determined.
Other polls, which break down the question in terms of whether Americans support legal abortions or want them limited to very rare cases, such as rape incest or to save the life of the mother, find about 55 percent of Americans oppose 98 percent of all abortions by opposing them all or in one or both of those situations.
Still, Gallup notes that the percentage of Americans who want all abortions illegal has risen two percent to 18 percent from its average of 16 percent from 1988 through 2008. Those who want all abortions to remain legal have decreased from the average of 28 percent during that time period to 21 percent today.
That’s a nine percent shift towards the pro-life position on abortion among those who take the strongest positions on it.
The new Gallup poll also found Republicans much more strongly pro-life than supportive of abortion. Democrats are more inclined to support abortion.
Some 68 percent of Republicans call themselves pro-life compared to just 28 percent who say they are "pro-choice" on abortion. Democrats split on abortion 62-31 percent in favor of it.
The pro-life advantage is also seen in the partisan abortion views as six percent more Republicans call themselves pro-life than Democrats say they back abortion. And three percent more Democrats are pro-life on abortion than support it.
Saad concludes that the polls mark a clear shift towards the pro-life position on abortion.
"In 2009, the ratio of Americans identifying themselves as ‘pro-choice’ versus ‘pro-life’ and the percentage saying abortion should be legal ‘under any circumstances’ are at or near the lowest levels seen in Gallup trends," she said.
"The source of the latest shift in abortion views — between 2008 and 2009 — is clear," she continues.
"The percentage of Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) who call themselves ‘pro-life’ has risen by nearly 10 points over the past year, from 60% to 68% — perhaps a reaction to the ‘pro-choice’ presidency of Barack Obama — while there has been essentially no change in the views of Democrats and Democratic leaners," Saad says.
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