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Monday, June 21, 2010

Latest US Opinion Poll - Trend showing opposition to abortion continues

Gallup’s 2010 Values and Belief’s poll carried out in May 2010 has confirmed that opposition to abortion in the US has grown in recent years.
The opinion poll found that 50% of people polled said they regarded abortion as ‘morally unacceptable’, while only 38% said they regarded it as ‘morally acceptable’, a gap of 12%. Fewer women than men (36% to 41%) said they considered abortion is morally acceptable. Holding abortion to be morally acceptable is now a minority view in the States.

But is this just a polling hiccup or a trend? Interpreting the findings for Gallup, Lydia Saad recalled that ‘in nearly all readings on this question since 1995, and each survey from 2003 to 2008, more Americans called themselves pro-choice than pro-life.’ When, however, this year’s result, is taken together with two taken last year, Ms Saad says, ‘it represents the third consecutive time Gallup has found more Americans taking the pro-life than pro-choice position on this measure since May 2009, suggesting a real change in public opinion.’

Support for abortion ‘legal in any circumstances’ falling in all age groups since 1990

Support for abortion being ‘legal under any circumstances’ has been falling since 1990 in all age groups. Among 18-29 year olds, it has dropped by 12% from 36% to 24% since 1990. Among 30-49 year olds, it has dropped by 7% from 34% to 17% since 1990. Among 50-64 year olds, it has dropped by 2% from 28% to 26% since 1990. And 65 year olds and over, it has dropped by 9% from 25% 60 16% since 1990.

This suggests that the age cohorts that sought and saw abortion on demand legalised in Roe v. Wade are clinging to it most, whereas the older people who never really bought into that are ever less supportive of it, and the younger generation are now less supportive of it than the now-ageing abortion-on-demand generation.

What do these results mean?

The law on abortion in the US was determined by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and in effect it involves abortion being ‘legal in any circumstances’. That is the significance of that question in the Gallup poll. It is in effect asking people do they support the law as defined by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. And the poll findings show the most people do not. Most people favour abortion being allowed in some cases, but nowhere near as widely as the Supreme Court allows. In the words of Lydia Saad, on behalf of Gallup, “On the one hand, the majority of Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and think abortion should be legal in at least a few circumstances. On the other, most Americans favor legal restrictions on abortion that go way beyond current law.”

But they surely mean more than this. A majority now regard abortion as morally unacceptable and only a minority see it as morally acceptable. The number who see themselves as pro-life is slowly edging ahead of those who see themselves as pro-choice. And the number who support the Roe v. Wade regime of abortion being legal in any circumstances is shrinking while the number who believe abortion should be illegal in any circumstances is increasing.

There is a growing disconnect between the law and the majority. And this means that moves to bring American abortion law into line with what most people want are likely to find a resonance and traction in the public domain.

But any such democratic recalibration is likely to be delayed by another disconnect, that between the news and entertainment mainstream in the US. In his article on the poll results, ‘Gallup’s Pro-Life America: When will our media reflect America on abortion?’ William McGurn comments, “If there is one extraordinary fact here, it is this: notwithstanding a pro-choice orthodoxy that dominates our film, our television, our press and our colleges and universities, strong moral qualms about abortion have not gone away...Over all, Gallup’s findings about Americans and abortion reflect less a political prescription than a sensibility. Apart from talk radio or the religious media, however, it’s a sensibility almost entirely lacking in our news and entertainment world. So the next time you watch the pro-life community dismissed as a fringe element, ask yourself – who’s really out of touch with the American people here?” (Wall Street Journal, 1st June 2010)

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