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Abortion poll by Gallup: What does it mean?

Gallup poll shows most people believe abortion should be legal under only a few or no circumstances. This is also true of younger voters.

Gallup poll shows most people believe abortion should be legal under only a few or no circumstances. This is also true of younger voters.

Earlier today, Gallup published the results of their latest poll on abortion.  What does it all mean?

The Good

  1. When given choices between none, few, most, and any circumstances, 61% said abortion should be legal only in a few or no circumstances, whereas 37% say it should be legal under any or most circumstances.  These numbers are very much opposed to the status quo (i.e., abortion legal under any and all circumstances).
  2. Only 40% of younger people (18 – 34 years) believe that abortion should be legal under any/most circumstances, whereas 59% believe it should be legal under few/no circumstances.  This is almost identical to the opinions of those in the 35 – 54 age group and the population at large.  Again, a resounding defeat for the status quo.
  3. Most people believe aborton to be morally wrong (51%) as opposed to morally acceptable (39%).  This is a 12% margin of victory for our side, but it is also puzzling.  Apparently, there are many people out there, maybe 10%, who won’t say abortion is morally wrong, but still believe it should be generally restricted (i.e., available only under a few or no circumstances).

The Bad

  1. The numbers aren’t changing much.  On the main question (whether you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life), the results were 49% pro-choice and 45% pro-life.  This isn’t radically different from the 1998 results, which were 48% pro-choice to 45% pro-life.  Yes, the numbers bounce around, but it is hard to assert there are any consistent trends.
  2. Despite a lot of conflicting data that others have touted, this poll shows that younger people (18 – 34 years) are pro-choice by a margin of 51% pro-choice to 42% pro-life, almost the same as the 35 – 54 age group, but more pro-choice than the overall population (49% pro-choice to 45% pro-life).  [Yet, as was detailed in item 2 under The Good, young people also believe abortion should be legal under only a few or no restrictions.]

The Ugly

  1. The poll did not differentiate between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd trimester abortions.  Attitudes change dramatically based on the age of the baby.
  2. People’s attitudes are inconsistent because most people simply don’t know much about it.  You could see that in the 1998 Wirthlin poll, which found that 61% of the people said abortion should be legal in the 1st trimester, but also found that 58% oppose abortion after the onset of the heartbeat.
  3. Since 1998, the numbers have bounced around, with both sides claiming “trends” that could be expected to continue into the future.  The latest data suggest no such trends, only sampling noise.
  4. Not much difference between genders, except that women tend to be more polarized.  More women than men thought abortion should be illegal under all circumstances (24% of women vs 19% of men).  But the women’s strong views also are evident at the other end of the spectrum, where more women than men also thought abortion should be legal under any circumstance (29% of women vs 24% of men).  Looking at it another way, 53% of women held one of the two polar opposite opinions, whereas only 43% of men held one of them.

So, is this good news or bad news?  Please comment!

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