Gallup recently released the results of its annual survey of Americans’ attitudes toward abortion. The results may be a disappointment to some pro-lifers. The poll shows that 55 percent of Americans identify as “pro-choice,” a five-point increase from the May 2021 Gallup poll. In addition, nearly every question in this Gallup poll indicated a five-point – up to six-point score. Increased support for legal abortion since that 2021 survey.
Still, pro-lifers shouldn’t worry too much. First, a closer look at the results indicates that this shift in “pro-choice” sentiment may not matter much politically, as nearly all of the gains in support of legal abortion have been among self-identified Democrats. By May 2021, 70 percent of Democrats identified as “pro-choice.” This most recent Gallup poll indicates that the figure has risen to 88 percent. Gain in pro-choice sentiment among a constituency that already identifies with a party that strongly supports legal abortion is unlikely to have much effect on the 2022 election or our politics beyond.
In addition, the main lesson from this poll is that current events often lead to fluctuations in public attitudes toward abortion. There was a surge in pro-life sentiment, according to Gallup polls, in the mid to late 1990s, when the debate over the partial birth abortion ban was most glaring. Meanwhile, in 2013, there was a growth in pro-life sentiment, likely driven by the Kermit Gosnell trial. Conversely, many studies found a surge in support for legal abortion in the late 1980s and early 1990s when many believed the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services or Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
REACH PRO-LIFE PEOPLE WORLDWIDE! Advertise with LifeNews to reach hundreds of thousands of pro-life readers every week. Contact us today.
As such, it’s important to note that this latest Gallup poll was conducted primarily in response to the leak of Justice Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Most subsequent media coverage of the draft opinion was not sympathetic to the pro-life stance. Many Americans still mistakenly believe that a reversal of Roe would ban abortion nationwide. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that this Gallup poll shows an increased sentiment for legal abortion.
However, the Gallup poll had some good news for pro-lifers. To the poll’s credit, for just the seventh time in 26 years, Gallup asked about the legality of late abortions. The poll found strong public opposition to legal abortion after the first trimester. Specifically, 55 percent thought second-trimester abortions should be “generally illegal,” and 71 percent thought third-trimester abortions should be “generally illegal.” This poll complements research data showing that most Americans support strong limits on abortion.
Most public surveys show that public opinion about abortion fluctuates in response to current events. Given the circumstances in May, it’s not surprising that some polls show increased support for legal abortion — yet the poll still shows a majority against abortions performed after the first trimester. Pro-lifers need not be discouraged. Many of our policy goals enjoy broad public support. As we eagerly await the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, we must continue our efforts to build a culture of living.
LifeNews Note: Michael New is a research associate at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America and is an associate professor at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. he is a former professor at Ave Maria University and the University of Michigan, Dearborn.