On Wednesday, Gallup released its annual poll on abortion trends. Megan Brenan's write-up for Gallup highlights that a "Record-High 47% in U.S. Think Abortion Is Morally Acceptable." However, there is much more to the poll, including results that are more favorable to the pro-life position that the media may not be willing to cover.
That headline is technically true. The plurality, 47 percent of respondents, who find abortion to be "morally acceptable" is indeed a record high. But it's crucial to look to the results of those who find abortion to be "morally wrong." That number is at 46 percent, which is nearly identical.
Last year's results found that 44 percent said abortion was "morally acceptable," while 47 percent said it was "morally wrong."
Michael J. New, a Research Associate at The Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, noted the same in a similar analysis for Live Action News:
“Morally acceptable” sentiment is largely unchanged
First, it is true that this survey finds that percentage of Americans who think abortion is “morally acceptable” reached an all-time high. However, while the survey found that 47 percent of Americans think abortion is “morally acceptable,” this is only a 3-percentage-point gain from the most recent Gallup survey in 2020. Furthermore, there was only a 1-percentage-point decline in those finding abortion “morally wrong.”
"The mainstream media will likely spin a few of the findings from this recent Gallup poll to argue that there has been a decrease in pro-life sentiment," Dr. New cautioned. "However, pro-lifers should not be misled."
Sure enough, mainstream media outlets were all about Brenan's headline.
"Record-high 47 percent say abortion is morally acceptable: Gallup," Dominick Mastrangelo reported for The Hill. And Jack Brewster reported for Forbes that "Record Number Of Americans Say Abortion ‘Morally Acceptable,’ Gallup Poll Finds."
For the past several years, with 2021 being no different, Americans have been evenly split on a "pro-choice" versus "pro-life" identification. According to this most recent poll, 49 percent consider themselves pro-choice, while 47 percent consider themselves pro-life. Last year, the split was 48-46 percent.
What's truly significant is how even that split is. Americans are increasingly becoming pro-life. From Gallup:
Americans have been closely split in how they identify their abortion stances in recent years. Since 1998, an average 47% of U.S. adults have considered themselves pro-choice and 46% pro-life. Between 1995 and 1997, the public tilted more pro-choice (52%) than pro-life (38%), on average.
Also, the poll results ought to be encouraging to pro-lifers, especially those who identify as Republican, "conservative," or both.
When it comes to Republicans, 74 percent are pro-life, while 22 percent are pro-choice. About one-quarter of Democrats are pro-life, at 26 percent, while 70 percent are pro-choice. That means Republicans are more likely to be pro-life than Democrats are to be pro-choice.
The starkest contrast comes down to political ideology more so than party identification. Those who identify as "liberal" are the most likely group to be pro-choice, at 80 percent. When it comes to those who are "conservative," 78 percent are pro-life.
The poll also breaks down results by whether respondents want abortion to be "legal under any circumstances," "legal only under certain circumstances," or "illegal in all circumstances." Those results turn out to be 32-48-19 percent. As Gallup notes [emphasis mine]:
Americans remain much more likely to believe abortion should be legal "only under certain circumstances" (48%) than to favor it being legal "under any circumstances" (32%) or "illegal in all circumstances" (19%).
Gallup further probes those who think abortion should be legal only in certain circumstances by asking whether they think it should be legal in "most" or "only in a few" situations. Since 1994, when this measure was first tracked, the group has leaned much more heavily toward the more restrictive option. Currently, 33% favor legal abortions in only a few and 13% in most circumstances. This translates into 52% supporting a more restrictive approach on abortion, saying it should be either illegal in all circumstances or legal in only a few. Meanwhile, 45% favor a less restrictive approach, preferring that it be legal in all or most circumstances.
Perhaps that should be the biggest takeaway of all, that a majority still do take this "more restrictive approach on abortion."
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), chair of the Republican Study Committee, who has discussed the importance of pro-life protections with Townhall before, weighed in on the poll. "What headlines about this poll are missing," he said in a statement to Townhall, are the "Americans [who] support a ban on abortions or abortions with limits, limits like banning abortions once babies feel pain or banning abortions for babies born alive during abortions that Democrats in Congress refuse to enact."
When it comes to the limits Rep. Banks cites, Democrats have defeated a 20-week abortion ban multiple times, which, as the congressman notes, is a point when unborn babies are capable of feeling pain. Likewise, Democrats in the Senate have consistently defeated a bill that would require babies born alive from abortions receive proper medical care. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has refused to even let it come to the floor for a vote.
Thus, the Democratic Party is ultimately out of touch not only with Americans but with 26 percent of its own party members. The 2020 party platform tellingly refused to acknowledge a single abortion regulation or restriction it supports.
The poll was conducted May 13-May 18, with a random sample of 1,016 adults. That it has a margin of error of 4 percentage points means that the "record-high 47%" could very well fall within the margin of error.