This summer, the Knights of Columbus commissioned a poll by Marist University on abortion attitudes in the United States. The results were released earlier this week, right as the Democratic National Convention was getting started. The timing could not have been better. The results of the Marist poll clearly show that the abortion plank in the Democratic party’s platform — which opposes all pro-life laws and supports Medicaid funding of abortion — is clearly out of step with not only with the American public, but also with a large number of self-identified Democrats.
The Marist poll indicates that respondents are more likely to identify as “pro-choice” rather than “pro-life” by a 53 to 41 margin. Many polling outlets frequently ask the “pro-life or pro-choice” question for a few reasons. First the pro-choice position often polls well. Second, some polls show key demographic groups — like young adults and women — are more comfortable identifying as pro-choice. Third, these polls give the misleading impression that Americans are polarized on the abortion issue and that there is little common ground to be found.
However, when one looks at other questions in the survey, the results of the Marist poll indicate that there is greater opposition to abortion than many realize. For instance, 53 percent of Americans think that abortion should either be illegal or legal only in the cases of rape, incest, or to save life of the mother. Furthermore, this finding is consistent across demographic groups. Fifty-two percent of young adults (18-34) and 53 percent of women share this view. Furthermore, 58 percent of African Americans and 59 percent of Hispanics also think abortion should be either illegal or legal only in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.
The results also indicate that Americans are less polarized on the abortion issue than many realize. Indeed, many incremental pro-life laws enjoy a great deal of support. The Marist poll finds that 62 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. Well over 70 percent support stronger regulations for abortion clinics — including requirements that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Finally, 56 percent of respondents support the conscience rights of health-care professionals who do not wish to participate in abortions.
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Perhaps most interestingly, the Marist poll indicates that a substantial number of Democrats espouse pro-life views. The Marist poll indicates that 26 percent of Democrats identify as pro-life. Additionally, 36 percent of Democrats think abortion should either be illegal or only legal in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother. Clear majorities of Democrats support both stronger regulation of abortion facilities and the conscience rights of health-care professionals. Finally, 46 percent of Democrats oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.
During the past ten years, public attitudes on abortion have remained relatively stable. However, that has not stopped the Democratic party’s leftward march on this issue. In fact, the 2016 DNC convention will mark the first time that the party platform will explicitly call for the repeal of the Hyde amendment which largely prohibits federal Medicaid funds from paying for abortion. All of this gives Donald Trump and other Republicans a great opportunity to win the votes of disaffected pro-life Democrats. In fact, the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign may well depend on his ability to successfully engage pro-life voters.
LifeNews.com Note: Dr. Michael New is a professor at Ave Maria University. He is a former political science professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is a fellow at Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.