Poll: Religion Key in Shaping Abortion Opinions, Mostly for Pro-Life People
by Steven Ertelt
September 20, 2010
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A new Pew poll released on Friday shows Americans continue to say their religious beliefs have been highly influential in shaping their views about social issues, including abortion. The way in which religious beliefs play a role in shaping abortion views is more strong than for other political issues.
On the issue of abortion, 26% overall say religion is the most important influence on their opinion, including 45% among abortion opponents.
Just 9 percent of those who support legalized abortion say religion affected their conclusion about it.
Religion is more influential on abortion views compared with other hot political topics as just 19 percent say religion influenced their stance on the death penalty, only 10 percent said it influenced their stance on poverty programs, 7 percent on immigration issues and just 6 percent on the environment.
That doesn’t mean the other issues are not getting an airing in church.
The vast majority of regular churchgoers (88%) say they hear about the issue of hunger and poverty from their clergy, but just 10% cite religion as the top influence on their opinions about governments role in providing assistance to the poor.
Pew also asked voters involved in the survey which issues matter most to them in the upcoming midterm elections. For most voters, the economy and jobs outpace all other issues in the election this fall, but abortion is still important as well — with 43 percent of those polled saying so.
The poll also found abortion matters to those who are considered more likely to turn out this election, conservative, Republican voters.
Some 48 percent of Protestants said abortion is "very important" to their vote, with 61 percent of white evangelicals saying so.
Just 30 percent of white mainline Christian church voters, who tend to be less pro-life, say abortion is a "very important" factor while 44 percent of black protestants, 43 percent of Catholics, and 32 percent of unaffiliated church voters say abortion is important.
The new Pew poll also found Republicans continue to generally oppose abortion (59 percent want all or most abortions made illegal), Democrats continue to support it (60 percent want all or most abortions kept legal), and independents are split (though leaning in favor of legalized abortions).
White evangelicals are most likely to want all or most abortions made illegal (63 percent) and a majority of Protestants (51 percent), black Protestants (50 percent), and Hispanic Catholics (52 percent) say the same thing.
On the other hand, white mainline church voters (60 percent), white Catholics (50 percent), atheists (85 percent) and those with no religious preference (63 percent) are most likely to say they want most or all abortions kept legal.
Of the voters who said religion influences their abortion views, 82 percent want all or most abortions illegal compared with 18 percent who want them to stay legal. Voters who say something else influences their abortion views are pro-abortion on a 64-36 percentage point margin.
Roughly a quarter (26%) of those with an opinion on abortion say religion is the most important influence on their views about the issue. A similar number cite their education (23%), while fewer say that a personal experience (17%) was most important in determining their views on abortion.
Almost six-in-ten regular churchgoers (59%) say their clergy speak out on the issue of abortion, higher than for any other issue in the survey except hunger and poverty (88%).
Despite divided opinions on abortion among Catholics as a whole, seven-in-ten Catholics (70%) who attend church at least once a month report that their clergy speak out on the issue of abortion. Similarly, 65% of white evangelical Protestants and 55% of black Protestants who attend services at least once a month report that their clergy talk about abortion, while fewer mainline Protestants (39%) say this.
Among those who attend religious services at least once a month and say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, two-thirds (66%) report having heard about the issue from their clergy. Among regular worship attenders who think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, fewer (50%) report having heard about this issue from their clergy.
Half of those who say their clergy speak out on abortion cite religion as the most important influence on their views on abortion, compared with 29% of those who do not hear from their clergy about the issue.
The Pew survey was conducted July 21-Aug. 5 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and it interviewed 3,003 respondents in both English and Spanish.
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