CNN Poll: 62% Want All or Most Abortions Made Illegal

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 15, 2011   |   3:45PM   |   Washington, DC

A new CNN national poll of Americans finds results that are almost identical to a Gallup survey earlier this year, and it shows 62% of Americans want all or most abortions made illegal.

CNN asked the question, “Do you think abortion should be legal under any circumstances, legal under only certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?” The survey found 25 percent of Americans want all abortions legal while 21 percent want all abortions illegal, and it had a large group of 53 percent of Americans saying abortions should be legal only under certain circumstances.

However, with a large percentage of Americans opposing abortions except in cases such as taking of the life of the mother, or cases of rape or incest — both of which, combined, constitute less than two percent of all abortions in the nation, according to the Guttmacher Institute — most Americans truly want 100% of 98 percent of the 1.2 million abortions a year made illegal.

A follow-up question CNN asked showed that to be the case.

When asked, “Do you think abortion should be legal under any circumstances, legal under only certain circumstances, legal in a few circumstances or illegal in all circumstances? ” CNN found the same 25 percent and 21 percent want either all abortions legal or all illegal. But, breaking down that 53 percent group further, CNN shows just 12 percent want abortions legal in most circumstances while 41 percent want most abortions to be made illegal.

In total, 62 percent of Americans want all or most abortions to be prohibited while only 37 percent of Americans want all or most abortions kept legal — the position of President Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood, the nation’s biggest abortion business.

The strongly pro-life response of most Americans in preferring to make illegal all or most abortions is nothing new in the CNN poll. In April 2009, CNN showed Americans wanted to prohibit most or all abortions by a 64-34 percentage point margin. The margin was 63-36% in November 2008, 61%-37% in June 2008, 62-36% in October 2007, and 64-34 percent in September 2006.

Historically, the pro-life movement has shifted public opinion against abortion as CNN found a 55-41 percent pro-life split in May 2001, and a 56-41 percent split in February 1995.

Those remarkably consistent pro-life figures mirror the numbers from a Gallup survey conducted earlier this year.

The Gallup polling firm conducted a national survey from May 5-8 with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older from across the nation. The poll has a 4 percentage point margin of error.

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.

“Americans are rather conservative in their stance on abortion, with 61% now preferring that abortion be legal in only a few circumstances or no circumstances. By contrast, 37% want abortion legal in all or most circumstances,” Gallup analyst Lydia Saad writes. “Over the past two decades, Americans have consistently leaned toward believing abortion should be legal in only a few or no circumstances, although less so in the mid-1990s than since about 1997, when combined support for these has averaged close to 60%.”

In fact, Gallup polling shows that, since 1994, a majority of Americans have held a pro-life view wanting all or almost all abortions made illegal — and that pro-life view has strengthened with an average of 60 percent of Americans saying that over the years.

Breaking down those numbers further, Gallup finds that pro-life view as seen across the board — with 60 percent of women and 61 percent of men saying they want all or almost all abortions illegal. Women actually take a stronger pro-life view than men with 24 percent of American women wanting all abortions made illegal and 36 percent wanting almost all illegal, compared with 19 percent of men who want to ban all abortions and 42 percent of men who want to prohibit almost all.

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.

Republicans are considerably more pro-life on abortion than independents or Democrats, with 79 percent of them saying they want all or almost all abortions prohibited, whereas 60 percent of independents take that position and 44 percent of Democrats agreeing.

CNN conducted interviews with 1,038 adult Americans conducted by telephone by ORC International on September 9-11, 2011. The margin of
sampling error for results based on the total sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points.