Americans’ support for abortion has reached a new historic low, especially among Catholics, according to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
The new poll, conducted from Aug. 11-27 among a total of 4,013 adults, reveals less support for abortion among most demographic and political groups. The survey also finds that the abortion debate has receded in importance among liberals, while opposition to abortion has grown more firm among conservatives.
According to a statement issued by Pew Research Center, “no single reason for the shift in opinions is apparent, but the pattern of changes suggests that the election of a pro-choice Democrat for president may be a contributing factor.”
“In Pew Research Center polls in 2007 and 2008, supporters of legal abortion clearly outnumbered opponents. Now Americans are evenly divided on the question, and there have been modest increases in the numbers who favor reducing abortions or making them harder to obtain,” the statement says.
However, the poll also indicates that the pro-lifers have a lot of work to do, since only 15 percent of respondents said abortion is a critical issue currently facing the country, down from 28 percent in 2006.
One of the largest declines in support for legal abortion has occurred among white, non-Hispanic Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly. Substantial change has also occurred among Democratic men (with support for legal abortion down nine points) but not among Democratic women.
According to the poll, four-in-ten Americans (41%) now say they favor making it more difficult to obtain an abortion, up six points from 35% in 2007. Similar movement is seen on the question of whether it would be good to reduce the number of abortions in this country; in 2005, 59% of respondents agreed it would be good to reduce abortions. Today 65% take this view, an increase of six points. Three-quarters (76%) continue to favor requiring minors to obtain the permission of a parent before having an abortion.
The Pew poll also find a polarization in the abortion debate: “many people on both sides of the issue say that the opposite point of view on abortion is not a "respectable" opinion for someone to hold. Nearly half of abortion opponents (47%), including 62% of those who say abortion should be illegal in all cases, say that a pro-choice view is not a respectable opinion for someone to hold. On the other side, 42% of abortion supporters (including 54% of those who want abortion to be legal in all cases) say the pro-life point of view is not respectable.”
Finally, roughly three-in-ten Americans think that President Barack Obama will handle the abortion issue correctly, while four-in-ten are unaware of his position on the issue. About two-in-ten worry that Obama will go too far in supporting abortion rights.