New Pew Poll Shows Abortion Support Dropping 11 Percent, Obama as Reason

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 1, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Pew Poll Shows Abortion Support Dropping 11 Percent, Obama as Reason

by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 1
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — A new Pew Research Center poll released today shows support for legal abortions has dropped 11 percent from 2008-2009. The poll joins a handful of others from earlier this year confirming there is a growing shift towards the pro-life perspective, perhaps exacerbated by President Barack Obama’s pro-abortion record.

The findings by the nonpartisan Pew center show Americans taking a pro-abortion position by a 54-40 percentage point margin in 2007 and 2008.

Now, two surveys of 5,500 adults found 47 percent support legal abortions with 44 percent opposed.

The old 14 percent advantage for the pro-abortion side has dropped to three percent — very near the margin of error.

"Now … there have been modest increases in the numbers who favor reducing abortions or making them harder to obtain," the polling firm said. "The pattern of changes suggests that the election of a pro-choice Democrat for president may be a contributing factor."

One of the largest declines in support for legal abortion has occurred among white, non-Hispanic Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly. Substantial change has also occurred among Democratic men (with support for legal abortion down nine points) but not among Democratic women.

Pew also found that pro-life advocates have an intensity factor in their favor.

While only eight percent of liberal Democrats view abortion as a critical issue, 26 percent of conservative Republicans call abortion a critical issue.

There has been a 26-point drop since 2006 in the proportion of liberal Democrats who say abortion is a critical issue, from 34% to 8%. But among conservative Republicans, the decline has been much smaller (nine points, from 35% to 26%).

This shift in attitudes is also evident on other measures of public opinion about limits on abortion.

Some 41 percent now say they favor making it more difficult to obtain an abortion, up six points from 35% in 2007. In 2005, 59% of respondents agreed it would be good to reduce abortions. Today 65% take this view, an increase of six points.

And three-quarters (76%) continue to favor requiring minors to obtain the permission of a parent before having an abortion.

The Pew poll also found fewer Americans, and fewer pro-life advocates are willing to compromise on abortion by finding some "middle ground."

Support for finding a middle ground on the abortion issue is down 12 points among conservative Republicans and six percent among all Americans.

The Pew poll found pro-life advcoates are more confident in their position. The percentage of conservative Republicans who say they ever wonder whether their position is right has dropped 11 points (from 30% in 2006 to 19% now), while the figure among liberal Democrats has been relatively stable.

Michael New, a political science professor at the University of Alabama, says the trend is very clear in the pro-life direction, as evidenced by the polling results.

"This is consistent with other surveys released this spring by groups like Gallup which show that an increasingly higher percentage of Americans are willing to describe themselves as pro-life," he said today.

In August, a Gallup poll found 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.

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."

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