Support for legal abortion in U.S. the highest it’s been in two decades
|National Post 10 Jul 2019 at 11:33|
Support for legal abortion stands at its highest level in more than two decades according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, even as numerous states adopt restrictions that challenge the breadth of rights established by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
The Post-ABC poll finds a 60 per cent majority who say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 55 per cent in a 2013 Post-ABC poll, and tying the record high level of support from 1995. The latest survey finds 36 per cent say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, also tying a record low.
In 2013, a Post-ABC poll found 55 per cent of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. The increase in support for legal abortion has increased in part due to large growth in support among independent women voters (up 16 points to 71 per cent) and Democrats (up 12 points to 77 per cent).
A 41 per cent plurality of Americans want their own states to avoid making it either harder or easier for women to have access to abortion. Fewer (32 per cent) say their states should make it easier and fewer still (24 per cent) say their states should make it harder for women to have access to abortion.
Many states have recently passed laws to limit abortion, and some, such as Georgia, have tried to effectively ban it. Many of these restrictions are being challenged and could eventually wind up before the Supreme Court.
Most Americans have circumstantial views of abortion laws — a majority say that abortion should be either legal in most cases (33 per cent) or illegal in most cases (22 per cent). About 4 in 10 say it should always be legal or illegal, with roughly twice as many who say abortion should be legal in all cases (27 per cent) as say it should be illegal (14 per cent).
Even within party ranks, allowing or banning abortion in all cases is a minority position. Among Democrats, 77 per cent say abortion should be at least mostly legal, but just over 4 in 10 (42 per cent) say it should be legal in all cases. Among Republicans, 52 per cent say it should be at least mostly illegal, but fewer than a quarter, 22 per cent, want it to be illegal in all cases.
Examining annual averages in opinions toward abortion across Post-ABC and Pew Research Center polling since the mid-1990s, support for legal abortion was last this high in Post-ABC polling in 1995, right before the country saw a decrease in the abortion rate. In 2015, the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the abortion rate reached a historic low.
Opposition to abortion was highest in 2010, when 45 per cent of Americans said it should be illegal in most or all cases and 52 per cent said it should be legal.
Looking ahead to 2020, just over 6 in 10 Americans say abortion is either “one of the single most important issues” in their vote or a “very important issue.” Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that abortion is an important issue in their vote for president, 71 per cent versus 57 per cent.
Asked about Trump’s handling of the abortion issue, disapproval outpaces approval by 54 per cent to 32 per cent margin. A majority of Republicans (65 per cent) approve of Trump’s efforts on the issue, but that lags his 87 perc ent overall job rating among fellow partisans. Meanwhile, 85 per cent of Democrats disapprove, as do 53 per cent of independents.
Opinions on abortion do not differ greatly among people living in states with more or less restrictive laws. In the 30 states where abortion is prohibited at 24 weeks or earlier (except in cases of life or health endangerment), a 57 per cent majority say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. And residents of the remaining states with fewer restrictions on abortion are slightly more likely to say abortion should be legal (64 per cent).
Members of Massachusetts Citizens for Life hold a rally outside the Massachusetts Statehouse on June 17, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
The partisan divide on abortion has increased sharply since the 1990s. An October 1995 Post-ABC poll, which found the same 60 per cent of Americans saying abortion should be legal as this month’s poll, found Democrats only 15 points more likely than Republicans to say abortion should be mostly or always legal, 64 per cent to 49 per cent. That gap now is 36 percentage points, 77 per cent to 41 per cent.
Men and women offer similar opinions on abortion in the latest survey, with 59 per cent of men and 62 per cent of women saying it should be legal in all or most cases. Women are slightly more likely to say abortion should be legal in all cases, 31 per cent compared with 23 per cent of men.
Age is another factor, with a larger share of adults under 30 (72 per cent) who say abortion should be legal than those who are older (58 per cent of those 30 to 64 and 56 per cent of those 65 and older).
There are sharp differences in support for abortion by religious affiliation. White evangelical Protestants remain the most united against legal abortion, with 62 per cent saying it should be illegal in all or most cases, virtually unchanged from 66 per cent in 2013. White Catholics are largely split, with 51 per cent saying abortion should be legal, and 46 per cent saying it should be illegal, also little changed from 2013. Fully 85 percent of those with no religion say abortion should be legal.
This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone from June 28 through July 1 among a random national sample of 1,008 adults, with 65 per cent reached on cellphones and 35 per cent on landlines. Results from the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; the error margin is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points for questions on approval of how President Trump is handling abortion and how important the issue is to Americans’ presidential votes.
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