Thursday, May 24, 2012

Poll Finds Decrease in Self-Described "Pro-Choicers"

A new Gallup poll found that the number of Americans describing themselves as "pro-choice" has hit a record low of 41% (compared to 50% who call themselves "pro-life").

  • The amounts of Democrats describing themselves as "pro-choice" versus "pro-life" has remained relatively stable over the last year.  
  • Self-described "pro-life" Republicans have increased from 68% to 72%, while "pro-choice" Republicans have decreased from 28% to 22%.  However the poll's margin of error is +4%, making the increase in "pro-life" Republicans statistically insignificant.  
  • The change is more marked for independents: "pro-choice" Independents have decreased 6 percentage points while "pro-life" Independents have increased 10 percentage points.
(Gallup notes that the shift in views is not due to a different political composition in the sample set; the political composition of this poll's sample set is similar to the sample set used in 2011.)

While there has been a shift in identification as "pro-choice" versus "pro-life," Americans' views on the morality of abortion remain nearly identical to the views expressed in the 2011 Gallup poll: 51% of Americans consider abortion morally wrong, and 38% consider it morally acceptable.  Similarly, when asked whether they think abortion ought to be legal under any circumstances (25%), legal under certain circumstances (52%), or illegal under all circumstances (20%), the percentages are statistically the same as the results from 2011.

In other words, in the last year Americans' labels for their abortion positions have shifted significantly, but their views on the morality and legality of abortion have remained steady. 

What do you think may have caused this increase in self-described "pro-lifers," especially among Independents?  Is this useful to the pro-life movement?  Why or why not?

UPDATE: A Washington Post blog entry explores the new Gallup poll, including a look at the religious tone of the pro-life movement:
Many past civil rights movements in this country, such as the move to end slavery or the fight for women’s suffrage, were deeply rooted in religious conviction. Such is the case with the pro-life movement. But with each of these movements there was a tipping point where Americans saw that one need not be a devoutly religious person to recognize the social justice issue at stake and to get behind the cause. This is happening with abortion in America.
Let's hope so! 


Anonymous said...

They don't see abortion as morally the same...the questions about morality are asked poorly and doesn't nuance abortion in the case of the life of the mother, rape, and birth control abortions.

James said...

Just a question, regarding my ignorance about polling stats. If the poll has a 4% margin of error then am I right to assume that the same margin ought to apply to both polls? If that is the case, then it seems like the shift could be relatively significant.

Life and Choices said...

So, there is no change for Democrats. And there is no significant change for Republicans. But the independents changed.

Well, we know that independents are more likely to be conservative to start with. (Nearly half of independents (47%) say their political views are moderate... The remainder tilt conservative, with 33% saying they are either conservative (29%) or very conservative (4%); 17% say their views are either liberal (14%) or very liberal (3%). And independents who don't lean either way "are the least politically informed segment of the electorate" and are less likely to vote.

So, it could just be a case of "conservatives becoming more conservative," possibly a polarized reaction to our Democratic president.

Or, it could be a case of increasing confusion over what "pro-life" means. Especially considering the likelihood of independents to be uninformed. "Pro-life" & "pro-choice" are most meaningful as political labels. A woman can reject abortion in her personal life, and even counsel friends against it, but she is still pro-choice as long as she doesn't believing in enacting laws to restrict or ban abortion. The label "pro-choice" reflects her voting behavior and what she desires to impose on the country. "Pro-choice" does not mean pro-abortion.

It's possible that pro-life propaganda has created some confusion about this. I've heard people say, "Well, I'm pro-life. I would never get an abortion. But I don't think we should make laws against it." Those people don't know they're pro-choice. To say that you're "pro-life personally but pro-choice politically" misunderstands the reality that many pro-choicers do not want (or ever get) an abortion themselves. Pro-choice is about freedom of choice, the right to protect one's bodily integrity and not suffer for it. It doesn't necessitate choosing abortion in every (or any particular) circumstance.

So, if opinions on abortion aren't changing, but the labels are, it could easily be confusion over the labels. But, considering the lower turnout of non-partisan independents in general, this confusion probably won't help the pro-life movement at election time.

Lingam Dosa said...

Every time I see someone on "Secular" use polling data, it's either outdated, or a very specific number quoted out of it's general context that doesn't support the point that they're trying to make. In addition, they usually ignore the data from these same studies that suggest the opposite.

Oh well I guess when you're the Secular outreach propoganda outfit of the Christian right, you work with what you can.

Simon said...

I read an article recently where US demographics trends mean Pro-Life views will continue to increase. It could mean demographics and not arguments will change the law and it will be arguments between Pro-lifers about what the new stance will be.

M said...

The blog post talks about the entire poll. Which crucial part do you feel was left out?

M said...

You don't happen to remember which article it was, do you?

Yoni Samosa said...

Well that settles it-- not really...