What America really thinks about abortion might surprise you

A large portion of the last presidential election cycle was spent talking about abortion. It wasn’t always front and center (the “war on women” was basically a smokescreen for abortion), but it was there. President Obama was obviously on the side of abortion rights, and he won. So it might surprise you to know that a large majority of the country thinks abortion should be illegal under all or almost all circumstances.

According to a new Gallup poll taken over the last week of 1500 adults, 58% of the country thinks abortion should be totally illegal or only legal in “a few circumstances” (presumably the standard exceptions of rape, incest, and life of the mother), essentially the Republican position. Only 39% think it should be legal in all or most cases, the Democrat position. How then was the President able to so effectively demagogue the issue in 2012?

Even more shocking, especially considering the campaign rhetoric last year, is the almost total lack of gender gap on the issue. Conventional wisdom is that women are more pro-choice than men. However, there is only a difference of 2% in the pro-life majority between men and women, with 59% of men and 57% of women opposing abortion in all or most cases.

Just as fascinating is the gender gap. While young voters (under 34) are just as pro-life as the overall population (57% under 34 vs 58% total), they are more polarized on the issue than the other age groups, with 23% opposing abortion in all cases (vs 20%) and 29% supporting it in all cases (vs 26%).

The partisan divide, while unsurprisingly strong, also has an unusual tint. Republicans are far more pro-life than Democrats are pro-choice. A full 78% of Republicans oppose abortion in all or most cases, but only 54% of Democrats support abortion in all or most cases. Actually, 31% of Democrats oppose abortion in most cases. Interesting then that their party holds such a singular and unwavering view on the subject on the national level.

However, as in so many other areas perception does not always equal reality. When asked if they consider themselves pro-life or pro-choice, the numbers came out more even, with 48% identifying as pro-life and 45% as pro-choice. So even when 58% hold a pro-life position, 10% of them don’t identify that way. This is frustratingly similar to ongoing identity problems in the GOP, and most likely something that gets worked out organically as society evolves, hopefully by changing the image and not the position.


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