Poll: Majority of Americans, Young Adults Say Abortion Wrong

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 9, 2011   |   10:19AM   |   Washington, DC

A third poll in the last three weeks has results showing a majority of Americans are opposed to abortion and say that it is morally wrong. That’s what a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute finds.

Based on interviews with 3,000 adults, PRRI finds that Americans, regardless of generation, believe abortion is morally wrong — but young Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 agree with that conclusion as well. They do so even though the poll found they are supportive of same-sex marriages. While there is a generation gap on that issue, there is not one on the issue of abortion.

“Millennials strongly support gender equality and rights for gay and lesbian people,” the survey said, according to AP. “However … younger Americans are no more supportive of abortion rights than the general population.”

“Abortion is just a different kind of issue, even for those who support it,” PPRI pollster Robert Jones said, according to AP. “It’s not the kind of issue that one celebrates.”

Leslie Kantor, national director of education for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America abortion business, told AP:  “For young adults, the vast majority know someone in their life who is gay. There’s no comparable coming out process related to abortion — even though by age 45 one-third of American women will have had one.”

In fact, most Americans under the age of 40 have grown up with legalized abortion. They have seen the damage abortion does to women, they have seen how it has destroyed an entire generation of people — their peers and their brothers and sisters. That is part of the explanation of why polls over the years have shown young Americans to be one of the most reliably pro-life.

The survey found 52 percent of Americans say abortions are morally wrong. However, the PRRI poll found different results from a recent Gallup survey in that it showed 56 percent of Americans say abortions should be legal in all or most cases. Some 19 percent said abortions should be legal in all cases and 37 percent said most while 14 percent said it should be illegal in all cases and 26 percent said illegal in most.

Such questions sometimes produce results tilted towards legal abortions because they do not define the actual cases in which abortions should or should not be legal. With many Americans thinking abortions in cases of rape or incest are more prevalent than they are (they comprise just 1-2 percent of all of the 1.2 million abortions annually) some Americans say abortions should be legal in most cases when they technically oppose 98-99 percent of all abortions.

The poll also found confusion on the labels pro-life and “pro-choice” — with 70 percent of Americans saying “pro-choice” describes them well but two-thirds saying the same about the term pro-life. The survey also found white evangelical voters to be the most pro-life of any religious or ethnic group.

Two other recent polls also show pro-life majorities on the question of the morality or legality of abortion.

A late May Gallup poll found Americans want all or most abortions made illegal and saying they believe abortion to be morally wrong.

By a 24 percent margin, 61-37 percent, Americans take the pro-life view that abortions should either be legal under no circumstances or legal only under a few circumstances. Although Gallup doesn’t specify those “few” circumstances, polling data has consistently shown that, when asked about cases such as rape,  incest, or the life of the mother, a majority of Americans want all or almost all abortions made illegal — leaving only life of the mother or rape and incest as the exceptions.

By age, Americans also oppose abortions — with 59 percent of people aged 18-34, 58 percent of those 35-54 and 64 percent of those over the age of 55 saying all or almost all abortions should become illegal. Younger Americans are most supportive of making all abortions illegal, with 24 percent of 18-34 year-olds saying so and 35 percent saying they want abortions legal only in a few circumstances.

Meanwhile, a new poll conducted by Thomson Reuters for NPR shows asked “do you personally believe having an abortion is wrong” and 59.3 percent of Americans polled said yes compared with just 40.7 percent who said no. The youngest age category of those polled, under 35, gave the most pro-life responses with 65.5 percent saying that having an abortion is wrong.