.- A new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows a significant drop in Americans’ support for legal abortion, with 44 percent now believing the killing procedure should be illegal in most or all cases and only 46 percent supporting it being legal.
In August 2008 only 41 percent believed abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, while 54 percent thought it should be legal in most or all circumstances, the Pew Research Center said on Thursday. The largest drop in abortion support was found among men. In August 2008 53 percent of men generally supported legal abortion, while in April 2009 only 43 percent did. About 46 percent of men said abortion should generally be illegal, an increase of four percentage points since August.
The percentage of women who believed abortion should be illegal in most or all cases remained steady at 42 percent, but the number of women supporting legal abortion declined from 54 to 49 percent.
The picture for Catholics appeared to be mixed, with Catholics surveyed by Pew in August 2008 more likely to say abortion should be illegal than those polled in April 2009, at a rate of 47 percent and 42 percent, respectively.
The number of Catholics who said abortion generally should be legal declined by two points from 49 percent to 47 percent. However, their numbers peaked at about 56 percent in mid and late October, according to two other Pew surveys.
According to the Pew Forum, support for abortion has “steadily declined” since August among white mainline Protestants, from 69 to 54 percent. Only 23 percent of white evangelical Protestants now favor legal abortion.
College graduates were most likely to support legal abortion by a margin of 58 to 33 percent, while those with a high school education or less were most likely to think it should be illegal, by a margin of 50-38. However, college-educated supporters of legal abortion dropped from 64 to 58 percent while the similarly-minded among those with no more than a high school education dropped from 47 to 38 percent.
Those making over $75,000 a year were most likely to support legal abortion.
CNA contacted the Pew Research Center for additional details and was told further analysis on the data had not been done.
The poll, which also asked about gun rights, surveyed 2,905 people in August 2008 and 1,521 people in April 2009. Pew claims a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points for the general population surveyed in April.
Polls asking about specific cases in which a respondent would allow abortion tend to show more opposition. A Knights of Columbus-commissioned survey published in October 2008 reported that 72 percent of Catholics said they would limit legalized abortion to cases of rape or incest and to save the life of the mother, would permit it only to save the life of the mother, or do not believe abortion should ever be permitted.
The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life also released on Thursday a poll on the religious dimensions of the torture debate. Though Catholic teaching condemns torture, the survey found that slightly more than half of white Catholics thought the practice can be justified sometimes or often, while only 47 percent said the practice can be justified rarely or never.