Gallup Polling Shows Republicans Now Strongly Pro-Life, Democrats Back Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 8, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Gallup Polling Shows Republicans Now Strongly Pro-Life, Democrats Back Abortion

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 8
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — The Gallup polling firm released a new report today looking back at its abortion polling from 1975-2009. It found that, over the last several years, Republicans and Democrats have become more polarized as Republicans move to a pro-life direction and Democrat embrace abortion.

"The underlying trend by party shows that Republicans’ and Democrats’ views on the contentious issue have become increasingly polarized,’ Gallup abortion poll analyst Lydia Saad explained.

Gallup’s long-term abortion question — instituted two years after the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on demand has resulted in 52 millions of abortions — asks Americans to say whether they believe abortion should be legal "under any circumstances," legal "only under certain circumstances, or "illegal in all circumstances."

The question has always been derided by pro-life advocates for not reflecting an accurate picture of where Americans stand on abortion — as the undefined "only under certain circumstances" includes many pro-life advocates who accept the life of the mother or rape and incest exceptions but also abortion advocates who want late-term abortions made illegal.

Yet, the Gallup poll is still useful in determining some trends.

"In the broadest terms, the largest segments of Republicans and Democrats have consistently preferred the middle ‘legal only under certain circumstances’ abortion position," Saad says.

But what has changed is that more Republicans now say that all abortions should be illegal while more Democrats say abortions should be legal for any reason — even in the latter parts of pregnancy.

As of 2009, 33 percent of Republicans say abortions should always be illegal and another 54 percent say they should only be legal in certain circumstances. That’s 88 percent of Republicans who want abortions prohibited or limited while just 12 percent want them legal in every circumstance.

Conversely, 12 percent of Democrats want all abortions illegal and 53 percent want them limited to certain circumstances — still much higher than the 31 percent who want all abortions to remain legal.

Independents see 17 percent wanting all abortions illegal and 57 percent who take the certain circumstances position. Just 20 percent of independents favor keeping all abortions legal.

Gallup notes that the 2009 abortion attitudes largely mirror the attitudes of Americans in 1975.

Some 20 percent want abortions to be illegal while 21 percent said so in 1975, 55 percent want them allowed only in certain circumstances compared with 53 percent back then, and 21 percent want all abortions legal compared with 23 percent in 1975.

But what has changed is the trend.

The percentage of Americans of any party saying they want all abortions to remain legal has dropped since highs in 2006 and 2007.

Republicans saying they want all abortions prohibited jumped from 22 percent in 2004 to 33 percent last year. Democrats increased from 10 to 12 percent from 2008-2009, and independents saying they want abortions disallowed rose from 11 percent in 2006 to 17 percent last year.

Democrats dropped from 38 percent taking the extreme pro-abortion position in 2007 to 31 percent last year, Republicans dropped from 15 percent in 2006 to 12 percent in 2009, and independents dropped from 35 percent in 2006 to 20 percent last year.

For Republicans, the Gallup polls show a party becoming solidly pro-life — as the percentage saying they want all abortions illegal reached a record high last year and has risen 20 points since 1992. And the number saying they want all abortions to remain legal reached a record low in 2009, dropping 17 points from 1990.

Although Democrats back abortion, they, too, are moving slightly in a pro-life direction recently as polls show fewer Democrats taking the most pro-abortion position and more taking a pro-life or middle of the road stance.

Gallup notes these trends in the conclusion of its report, saying "a transformation that has taken place in the ways the two major parties approach the issue."

"Whereas Republicans and Democrats had similar outlooks on abortion in the 1970s and 1980s, that started changing in 1990; and by 2009, more Republicans believed abortion should be illegal than broadly legal (by a 21-point margin), while the reverse was true among Democrats (by 19 points)," it noted.

The trends reported are based on annual averages of Gallup’s abortion surveys, from 1975 through 2009. All individual surveys are based on interviews with a random sample of approximately 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older.

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