Poll: 60% of Americans Want to Stop Abortions or Limit Them

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 28, 2011   |   12:50PM   |   Washington, DC

Just days after the nation marked 38 years of virtually unlimited abortions following the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, a newly-released CBS News poll shows 60 percent of Americans want abortions stopped or more limits on them.

CBS News conducted a poll December 17-20 of last year and released the results yesterday.

The survey showed just 36 percent of Americans wants abortions to be “generally available,” which is down from the high of 42 percent in the same poll CBS News conducted in June 1992. But, it found 20 percent of Americans said abortions should not be permitted and another 40 percent who say abortions should be subjected to stricter limits.

The percentage of Americans who say abortions should not be permitted has risen from 17 percent in the June 1992 poll while those who want more limits has relatively stayed the same since over the last 19 years.

As with most polls on abortion, the CBS News survey finds Republicans are most supportive of prohibiting or limiting abortions (75 percent say that) while Democrats are more supportive of abortion with 47 percent saying it should be available and 49 percent saying it should be limited or not permitted. Men and women express similar views, with women more supportive of not permitting abortions (21-18 percent) and less supportive of keeping them available (35-37 percent).

The CBS News question is awkwardly worded — it doesn’t define what limits the middle group would support. That makes it difficult to discern whether the middle group supports limits like parental notification and no taxpayer funding of abortion, while preferring to keep most abortions legal, or whether they support making most abortions illegal except in cases of rape and incest.

A new Fox News poll is more instructive — and it shows a majority of Americans still consider themselves pro-life when it comes to the issue of abortion compared to those who say they’re “pro-choice.”

The survey found 50 percent of Americans say they are pro-life while just 42 percent say they are pro-choice on abortion. Another 5 percent said they were sort of a mix between the two positions while 3 percent said they don’t know where they stand on abortion.

Breaking down the survey results further, Republicans indicated they are pro-life on a 69-26 percentage point margin, independents declare themselves pro-life on a 47-41 percentage point margin while fully one-third of Democrats (32 percent) say they are pro-life compared with 59 percent who say they are not.

The overall 50-42 percent pro-life figure is relatively unchanged from the 49-43 percent margin Fox News found in its May 2009 poll asking the same question. But, it represents a new high compared with responses to the questioned asked each year since 1997. The lowest point in the poll, in July 2000, saw 38 percent of Americans say they are pro-life compared with 54 percent saying they supported abortion.