A new poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus supports other reports that say Americans are increasing becoming pro-life. About 49 percent of Americans now describe themselves as pro-life, while 60 percent think abortion should be legal only in a few circumstances or not at all.
The poll, undertaken in partnership with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, conducted a telephone survey of 1,223 Americans in May 2009 and claims a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.
An October 2008 Knights of Columbus/Marist Institute poll showed 44 percent of Americans considered themselves to be pro-life. This figure increased to 49 percent among the May 2009 respondents. Men and women were about evenly split on abortion but were still slightly more pro-life than those polled in 2008.
Practicing Catholics surveyed in May were 67 percent pro-life, compared to 59 percent in 2008. However, pro-life non-practicing Catholics declined from 29 percent to 23 percent.
African-Americans said they were pro-life at a rate of 54 percent, a 15 percent uptick from the 2008 respondents. About 43 percent of Latinos said they were pro-life, a slight increase, while 49 percent of whites said likewise.
Shifting opinion on abortion was also evident by region.
By region, the South showed a 15 percent pro-life jump to 64 percent. However, the West declined in pro-life sentiment by five points to 32 percent. The Midwest (47 percent pro-life) and the Northeast (41 percent pro-life) were almost unchanged.
About 42 percent of poll respondents said abortion should be illegal in most circumstances, while 18 percent said the killing procedure should be illegal in all circumstances. A reported 23 percent said abortion should be legal in all circumstances, while 17 percent believed it should be legal in most circumstances.
In addition to the 60 percent who favored banning abortion in all or most circumstances, another 26 percent thought it should be allowed only in the first three months of pregnancy. Under Roe v. Wade and related Supreme Court rulings, abortion in the U.S. is almost unrestricted throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
Around 53 percent of respondents said an abortion does more harm than good to a woman in the long run, while 26 percent felt it improves a woman’s life. Eighteen percent were unsure.
On the topic of conscience protections, almost 80 percent of Americans believed health care workers should not be required to perform an abortion if it conflicts with their personal values.
The findings provide results similar to other recent surveys, such as a May Gallup poll which for the first time in its 14-year history reported that a majority of U.S. respondents self-described as pro-life.