When there is debate about abortion in the United States, it is often “framed as a legal binary” between “pro-life” or “pro-choice” factions. However, a person’s opinion is not that straightforward: Very few people are 100% for or against medically ending a pregnancy, and political or religious affiliation does not totally affect their point of view.
Pew Research’s analysis of 10,441 U.S. registered voters’ survey responses demonstrated that while Americans feel strongly about their position, they also agree with some of their opponent’s ideas surrounding abortion. The March 7-13, 2022 poll, conducted before the Supreme Court’s draft opinion challenging the 1973 ruling of Roe v Wade was leaked, might be contrary to the so-called news spread on social media.
The poll found the majority agree the controversial law should be legal in all or most circumstances. Still, many of them are open to some restrictions. Additionally, those who oppose legalized abortion feel that it should be legal in some situations.
- Forty-eight percent of adults said that abortion is morally wrong in some situations but still believe it should be legal.
- Seventy-two percent of respondents agreed that the only person who should decide to end her pregnancy is the pregnant woman.
- Fifty-six percent said they feel that life begins at conception, so a fetus is a person with rights.
- Thirty-three percent of those professing to support legal abortion also agree that life begins at conception and the fetus’ rights must be considered.
Partisan Point of View Differences
While there was a sharp partisanship contrast about whether or not terminating a pregnancy should be legal in all cases without exception, 6% of those who either identify as or lean Republican and 30% of Democrats responded were less partisan about the circumstances in which it should be legal, 79% (R) to 65% (D).
Should abortion be legal if the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health? Thirty-one percent of Republicans and 50% of Democrats asked agreed it should be “mostly legal;” “mostly illegal” 47% (R) to 15% (D); and 13% (R) to 4% (D) say it depends.
- Should abortion be legal if the pregnancy is the result of rape? Fifty-six percent of Republicans and 83% of Democrats asked agreed it should be legal; 23% (R) to 7% (D) said it should be illegal, and 19% (R) to 8% (D) said it depends.
- Does the length of the pregnancy matter in determining the legality of abortion? Sixty-four percent of Republicans and 52% of Democrats said yes, the stage should be a factor in deciding legality, whereas 14% (R) and 13% (D) believe the stage should not be a factor.
Based on these numbers, those elected to represent America and its people do not seem to be listening. Many do not vote on legislation contrary to their party’s platform, so Americans may never know what their representatives genuinely think or feel on any topic.
A May 5-7, 2022 RMG Research survey found that 65% of respondents want voters and elected representatives to decide the laws necessary to govern abortion in the United States. Only 18% believe the decision should be made by judges and courts.
Importance of Religion in Molding a Christian’s Abortion Stance
Polls classify Christians as white evangelical Protestant, non-evangelical white Protestant, Black Protestant, Catholic, or religiously unaffiliated. Pew Research found that among Christians, 73% of white evangelical Protestants say their religion was extremely or very important in molding their opinions about abortion, followed by 51% of Black Protestants, 41% of Catholics, 28% of white Protestants, and 7% of those identifying as religiously unaffiliated.
Seventy-four percent of Evangelical Christians said abortion should be against the law under all or most circumstances. By comparison, 84% of religious “nones” believe terminating a pregnancy should be legal in all or most cases. Similarly, 86% of Black Protestants, 60% of white non-evangelical Protestants, and 56% of Catholics agree.
Evangelical Christians (86%) also lead in the number of Americans who believe that life begins at conception; therefore, fetuses are people with rights.
According to Pew Research, a large majority of Black and white Protestants, Catholics, and religiously unaffiliated respondents view the issue of abortion in shades of gray. Sixty-three percent of religious “nones,” 67% of Black Protestants, 76% of Catholics, and 78% of white Protestants agreed that terminating a pregnancy should be legal under some circumstances and illegal in others.
Historical Abortion Rights Polling Data
Abortion is different than other controversial topics that eventually gained a more significant public approval: Inter-racial marriage, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, and voting for a woman president. “In the 1970s, a large majority of Americans wanted abortion to be legal in at least certain circumstances. That remains true today,” according to Jerusalem Demsas.
Gallup polling data collected between 1975 and 2021 reveal a relatively consistent percentage of respondents support abortion rights. Pollsters asked if terminating a pregnancy should be legal without restriction, only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all cases:
- In April 1975, 76% favored abortion rights: 21% without restriction, 54% with conditions, and 22% believed it illegal in all cases.
- In May 2021, 80% of respondents supported a woman’s right to choose: 32% without restriction, 48% with conditions, and 19% thought ending a pregnancy should be illegal in all cases.
Pew Research’s March 7-13, 2022 survey reflects a slightly different story than Gallup’s May 2021 poll. Only 61% of Pew’s respondents said abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, while 37% believe it should be illegal in all or most situations.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
The Atlantic: The Abortion Policy Most Americans Want; by Jerusalem Demsas
Newswise: Large numbers of Americans morally opposed to abortion would still help friend or family member seeking one; New-York University
Pew Research: America’s Abortion Quandry
The Christian Post: 65% of Americans want voters to decide abortion laws: poll; by Ryan Foley
Featured and First Inset Images Courtesy of SHYCITYNikon’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Elvert Barnes’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License