A new poll for the first time finds that a slight majority of Americans now call themselves "pro-life" regarding abortion. The poll also shows that a majority of Catholics once again consider themselves pro-life while the number of Americans who think abortion should be legal "under any circumstances" has declined.
The Gallup Poll conducted from May 7 to May 10 reported that 51 percent of Americans now call themselves "pro-life," while only 42 percent call themselves "pro-choice." Self-described pro-lifers had never made up a majority of survey respondents since Gallup started asking the question in 1995.
A year ago, 50 percent of Americans categorized themselves as pro-choice and only 44 percent categorized themselves as pro-life. The previous high for pro-life sentiment was in 2001 and 2002, when 46 percent self-identified as pro-life.
The results come from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, which polled 1,015 national adults. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Gallup also asked respondents their views of abortion restrictions. About 53 percent said abortion should be legal "only under certain circumstances," 23 percent said the killing procedure should be illegal in all circumstances, and only 22 percent said it should be legal in all circumstances.
In 2008, 28 percent thought abortion should be legal under any circumstances while only 17 percent said it should always be illegal.
Of those 2009 survey respondents who thought abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances, 37 percent said it should be legal "only in a few" circumstances while 15 percent said it should it be legal under "most" circumstances.
The latest survey shows that a majority of Catholics, 52 percent, again describe themselves as pro-life. Their numbers, as reported by Gallup, peaked in 2007 at 54 percent but declined to 45 percent in 2008.
Gallup speculated that the controversy over President Barack Obama’s invitation to Notre Dame may have strengthened pro-life sentiment among Catholics.
About 59 percent of Protestants and other Christians now describe themselves as pro-life, an increase of about eight points since 2008. Only 31 percent of those of other or no religious preference describe themselves as pro-life, though that figure represents a four percent increase over 2008.
The survey reports that about 49 percent of women and 54 percent of men now identify as pro-life.
Gallup reported that there was essentially no change on abortion among Democrats and those who lean Democratic. However, The number of Republicans and those leaning Republican showed 70 percent identify as pro-life, a ten percent increase since 2008, while 26 percent identify as pro-choice, a ten percent decrease.
It was not explained whether a decline in Republican self-identification could have affected the survey results. However, Gallup’s report showed increasing pro-life sentiment among both conservatives and moderates.
In its May 15 summary of the survey, Gallup said the rise of the pro-abortion rights President Obama may have pushed some people into the pro-life column.
"It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be ‘pro-choice’ slightly to the left, politically," Gallup said. "While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction."