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NRL News
Page 17
April 2009
Volume 36
Issue 5

Support for Abortion Drops;
Biggest Decline among Mainline Protestants
By Dave Andrusko

Research conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has shown a decline for support for abortion in most or all cases from 54% last August to 46% this month. By contrast, opposition to abortion in most or all cases has risen from 41% to 44%.

The news is actually even better, when examined in context.

Whenever a pollster gives respondents a lengthier and more specific range of alternatives, there is virtually always a majority that opposes abortion except to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest. Blunter instruments—such as those used by Pew—miss the nuances and therefore underestimate the public’s real opposition to abortion on demand.

This subtlety is hinted at in only one statement in the text. “The decline in support for legal abortion has come entirely in the share saying abortion should be legal in most cases (from 37% to 28%).” This is speculation, but what this likely means is that people whose real support for abortion extends only to very limited instances returned to expressing their true view.

Pew’s poll reached 1,521 adults between March 31 and April 21. “Currently, 46% say abortion should be legal in most cases (28%) or all cases (18%); 44% believe that abortion should be illegal in most (28%) or all cases (16%),” according to Pew. So where were the changes?

The decrease in support for abortion is across the board. It is greatest among men and women over 50 (13% and 8%, respectively) and the age categories 18–29 and 30–49, where support dropped 5%. Put another way, only 40% of men over the age of 50 say abortion should be legal in most or all cases (down from 53% last summer). Likewise, support for abortion among women over 50 declined from 53% last fall to 45%.

In mid-October, 57% of all respondents told Pew they supported abortion in most or all cases. The 11-percentage-point drop (to 46%) cannot be explained merely by shrinking support among men and women over 50, nor is it the most interesting result.

According to Pew, “There has been notable decline in the proportion of independents saying abortion should be legal in most or all cases; majorities of independents favored legal abortion in August [55%] and the two October surveys, but just 44% do so today. In addition, the proportion of moderate and liberal Republicans saying abortion should be legal declined between August and late October (from 67% to 57%). In the current survey, just 43% of moderate and liberal Republicans say abortion should legal in most or all cases.”

What about mainline Protestants? Theirs was the biggest decline of all. Last August, 69% favored abortion in most or all cases. By April that figure had dropped 15 percentage points to 54%.

Among those who were labeled “unaffiliated,” a whopping 71% supported abortion in most or all cases, down only one percentage point.