Roe at 40: Polling Shows Americans are Pro-Life on Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 22, 2013   |   2:25PM   |   Washington, DC

The media and public attention today are focused on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and media outlets are already trying to make it appear that polling data suggests Americans support Roe v. Wade and abortion.

However, one of the most recent polls on abortion shows that’s not the case.

In August, CNN released the results of a new poll showing a majority of Americans want all or most abortions prohibited — a clear pro-life majority.

The survey asked: “Do you think abortion should be legal under any circumstances, legal under only certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?” Some 62 percent want abortions illegal in all cases or legal only in certain instances while just 35% want abortions legal for any reason.

Breaking down the question further, CNN asked, “Do you think abortion should be legal in most circumstances or only a few circumstances?”

Here, 52 percent took a pro-life view saying abortion should be illegal in all (15%) or most circumstances (37%) while just 44 percent took a pro-abortion view saying abortions should be legal in all (35%) or most (9%) circumstances.

Looking more closely at when abortions should be legal, CNN asked about if they should be allowed when the woman’s life is endangered. Americans agreed with that on a 88-9 percentage point margin. In cases of rape and incest, Americans supported legal abortions on a 83-14 percentage point margin. And when the woman’s health is supposedly in danger from the pregnancy, Americans were alright with abortion on a 83-12 percentage point margin.

That makes it clear Americans only support abortion in the most rare instances and clear oppose abortions in the 99 percent of cases when abortion is chosen for convenience, social or birth control reasons.

In November, National Right to Life released the results of another poll showing pro-life majorities. The Polling Company post election poll found 51% now identifying as pro-choice and 43% as pro-life.

The Polling Company found that:

  • • 9% would prohibit all abortions
  • • 12% would allow abortion only to save the life of the mother
  • • 28% would allow abortion only for life of mother, rape and incest
  • • 16% would allow abortion for any reason but only up to 3 months
  • • 12% would allow abortion for any reason but only up to 6 months
  • • 13% would allow abortion for any reason at any time
  • • 11% don’t know or refused.

Grouping the first three categories as pro-life and the next three as pro-choice you get 49% pro-life and 41% pro-choice with only 25% actually agreeing with what is essentially the current legal status of abortion.  This is in the same poll in which respondents self identified as 51% pro-choice and 43% pro-life.

Significantly, 14% of those who identified themselves as pro-choice said they would allow abortion only in cases of the life of the mother, rape, or incest.  At the same time a full 45% of those who identified themselves as pro-life said they would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest.

A Marist College poll taken earlier this month shows a majority take one of three pro-life positions on abortion, opposing 99 percent or 100% of all abortions done annually in the United States.

Four decades after the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Roe v. Wade, a new Marist poll provides more details about Americans’ attitude on abortion, with 83 percent favoring significant restrictions. The poll reveals that support for significant abortion restrictions has increased by four points since last year — rising from 79 percent to 83 percent.

Looking at abortion in views in general, 10 percent believe abortion should never be permitted; 12 percent believe abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the mother; 34 percent would restrict abortion only to cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother; and 27 percent would limit abortion to — at most — the first three months of pregnancy.

Few Americans take the position of either President Barack Obama or Planned Parenthood, as only 11 percent would allow abortion at any time, while 6 percent would allow it during the first six months of pregnancy.

“For years polls have found that Americans divide on labeling themselves as pro-life or pro-choice,” said Lee Miringoff of The Marist Poll. “By asking more detailed questions about their specific views on abortion, we have been able to go beyond those labels to get a more complete picture of what Americans actually think about this issue.”



The survey is right in line with Gallup’s most recent national poll on abortion. Gallup found, in May 2012, the percentage of Americans who identify them selves as supporting legalized abortion has dropped to a record low.

“The 41% of Americans who now identify themselves as “pro-choice” is down from 47% last July and is one percentage point below the previous record low in Gallup trends, recorded in May 2009,” the polling firm noted. On the other hand, 51 percent of Americans call themselves pro-life, one percentage point away from the record high.