Gallup: 61 Percent Say All or Most Abortions Should Be Illegal

May 23, 2011 - 11:33 AM

Unborn baby

Unborn baby (National Institutes of Health photo via Wikimedia Commons)

(CNSNews.com) - Sixty-one percent of American adults—including some who describe themselves as “pro-choice”—told Gallup in a survey conducted May 5-8 that abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances.

The Gallup survey, published today, asked 1,018 American adults whether they considered themselves “pro-choice” or “pro-life” on abortion. It also asked: “Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?”

For those who answered that abortion should be “legal only under certain circumstances,” Gallup asked the follow-up question: “Do you think abortion should be legal in most circumstances or only in a few circumstances?”

Forty-nine percent told Gallup they were pro-choice and 45 percent said they were pro-life, marking the first time since May 2008 that the percentage of Americans describing themselves to Gallup as pro-choice exceeded the percentage describing themselves as pro-life.

(Pro-life self-identification peaked in May 2009, when 51 percent told Gallup they were pro-life and 42 percent said they were pro-choice.)

In this year’s survey, in addition to the approximately 49 percent who said they were pro-choice and 45 percent who said they were pro-life, another approximately 7 percent would not describe themselves as either pro-choice or pro-life. This included 2 percent who said they had no opinion on the matter, 2 percent who said they did not know what the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” meant, and 3 percent who described themselves as mixed on the issue or neither one of the two.

Only 27 percent in this year's survey told Gallup they thought abortion should be legal under any circumstances whatsoever.

About 71 percent said they thought abortion should be illegal in at least some cases. This included 22 percent who said it should be illegal in “all circumstances,” 39 percent who said it should be legal in “only a few circumstances,” and 10 percent who said it should be legal in “most” circumstances.

The 22 percent who said it should be illegal in “all circumstances” and the 39 percent who said it should be legal in “only a few circumstances” equal a majority of 61 percent who believe abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances.

Because only 49 percent said they were “pro-choice,” and another 7 percent declined to describe themselves as either pro-choice or pro-life, the poll numbers indicate that at least some of those who described themselves as “pro-choice” must also have been among the 61 percent who said they believed abortion should either be illegal in all circumstances or legal only in a few circumstances.

Gallup did not publish a breakdown of the percentage of self-described “pro-choice” people who said they believe abortion should be illegal in either all or most circumstances.

Gallup also asked respondents whether they personally believed abortion was “morally acceptable” or “morally wrong.” It did not ask anyone if they thought abortion was “morally right.”

A majority--51 percent--said they believed abortion was morally wrong. Only 39 percent said they believed it was “morally acceptable.”

The percentage saying abortion was “morally wrong” did not differ by gender, with 51 percent of men and 51 percent of women saying abortion was morally wrong.

It did differ by age group, however. Younger Americans tended to have a tougher moral view of abortion than their elders.

Fifty-three percent in the 18-34 age bracket said they believed abortion was morally wrong. That exceeded the 51 percent of Americans in the 55 and older bracket who said they believed abortion was morally wrong, and the 48 percent in the 35-54 bracket who said it was morally wrong.

Women and younger Americans were more likely than others to reject exceptions for legalized abortion. Twenty-four percent of women, and 24 percent of Americans 18-34 said they believed abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

Only 19 percent of men took that position.