National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

More Americans Identify as 'Pro-Life,' But Most Continue To Support Abortion Rights, Poll Finds

More Americans Identify as 'Pro-Life,' But Most Continue To Support Abortion Rights, Poll Finds

May 24, 2012 — Half of U.S. residents identify as "pro-life," although the vast majority believe that abortion should be legal in all or some circumstances, according to a Gallup poll released on Wednesday, CNN reports (CNN, 5/23).

Gallup surveyed 1,024 adults from May 3 through May 6. The poll noted that while there has been a "close division" between the "pro-choice" and "pro-life" positions since 2009, the latest results mark a record low -- 41% -- in individuals who identify as "pro-choice."

The polling organization has been asking the question since 1995 (Mak, Politico, 5/23). From the mid-1990s and through 2000s, most people identified as "pro-choice," although the gap narrowed over time. In just two surveys -- the latest poll and one from May 2009 -- "pro-life" has come out "significantly ahead" of "pro-choice," Gallup said. In the most recent survey, in July 2011, respondents were evenly split at 47% for each position (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/23).

"It remains to be seen whether the pro-life spike found this month proves temporary, as it did in 2009, or is sustained for some period," Gallup noted (Muskal, Los Angeles Times, 5/23).

Gallup asked respondents whether abortion should be legal in all circumstances, legal in certain circumstances or illegal in all circumstances. Fifty-two percent of respondents said abortion should be legal in some circumstances, while 25% said it should be legal in all circumstances and 20% said it should be illegal in all circumstances.

Response

Ted Miller, a spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said, "The survey shows Americans still strongly support keeping abortion safe and legal," adding, "Pro-choice victories on ballot measures in states like Mississippi and South Dakota in the last few years, combined with the backlash against recent attacks on women's reproductive rights, are a clear sign that voters want to protect a woman's right to choose" (CNN, 5/23).

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, "What this poll makes clear is that labels like 'pro-choice' and 'pro-life' simply don't reflect the complexity of how most people actually think and feel about abortion" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/23).

Abortion-rights opponents praised the poll results, CNN reports. Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said medical technology, such as ultrasounds, is "changing perceptions" on abortion (CNN, 5/23).