If you read most press accounts, the public in general, women in particular, are recoiling from the many initiatives “anti-abortion activists” have undertaken. But the latest polling data from Gallup demolishes that myth, noting in the process that there has been a huge turnaround in the self-identification of Independents
Gallup’s Lydia Saad reported yesterday  that the number of those who identify as “pro-choice” has reached a record low—41%–at the same time that 50% identify as pro-life, one point shy of the all-time high. That is a drop of 6 points since last July among self-identified pro-choice Americans and an increase of 4 points for self-identified pro-life Americans.
But it is the details in Gallup’s poll — those highlighted and those not mentioned — that provides an even brighter picture that bodes well for the future.
#1. The trend line. In the mid-nineties the pro-choice designation was way ahead. That advantage was small from 1998-2008 and very close of late. “However, in the last period, Gallup has found the pro-life position significantly ahead on two occasions, once in May 2009 and again today,” Saad writes. Pro-lifers avidly remember May 14, 2010 Gallup report headline: “The New Normal on Abortion: Americans More ‘Pro-Life.’”
#2. Trying to minimize the numbers. “This, however, seems to say very little about Americans’ support for abortion rights,” writes the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff. “There, views hold steady: 52 percent believe abortion should be legal under ‘certain circumstances,’ a slight tick up from 50 percent in 2011.”
This tiny movement misses altogether the hugely important fact that when what is meant by “certain circumstances” is made more specific, there is a clear pro-life majority. For example, Gallup asked this category of responders, “Do you think abortion should be legal in most circumstances or only in a few circumstances?”
With this clarification, a total of 59% of respondents said abortion should be legal in only a few circumstances (39%) or illegal in all circumstances (20%). That compares with a total of 38% who said that abortion should be legal under any circumstances (25%), or under most circumstances (13%).
#3. The improved numbers cross partisan lines. Saad writes, “The decline in Americans’ self-identification as ‘pro-choice’ is seen across the three U.S. political groups.” Republicans, already pro-life, have become more so: 68% last May, 72% today.
What about Independents? “[P]ro-lifers now outnumber pro-choicers among this important swing political group for only the second time since 2001, with the first occurring in 2009.” This 47% to 41% advantage is attributable to a drop of ten points among pro-choice Independents since May 2011 and an increase of six points among pro-life Independents, Saad explains.
But notice there was improvement even among Democrats. Last May, 68% of Democrats identified as pro-choice. It’s 58% now.
#4. All this is taking place, Saad writes, while “Abortion has been the focal point of some prominent news stories in the past year,” including congressional efforts to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the controversy over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure cancer foundation’s back and forth involvement with PPFA, and the furious backlash against Obama’s mandate requiring religious institutions and individuals of conscience to pay for health insurance plans that cover medical procedures and drugs contrary to their religious beliefs and consciences.
In other words during a time when abortion has been a prominent issue in the news; when Republicans were supposedly waging an imaginary “war on women”; and at a time when reporters and commentators are ratcheting up their warning how pro-life Republicans will “pay the price,” more and more Americans identify as pro-life and fewer and fewer Americans say they are pro-choice.
#5. Saad says the shift in abortion views over the past year “is not due to a change in the political composition of the samples.” The current split is 47% of respondents are Democrats or lean Democratic, while 41% are Republican or lean Republican. “This is similar to the partisan composition of the May and July 2011 surveys, which showed a close division between pro-life and pro-choice Americans,” she says.
That’s important to know! However, while I am not an expert on polling by any means, I wonder if that split means more Democrats are polled than ought to be the case.
#6. Finally, the Gallup poll also demonstrates that no more (probably less) than one-fourth of Americans favor abortion being legal for all reasons. How many of them know that in their nation’s capital, the District of Columbia, the law allows abortion until birth for any reason? NRLC is pressing Congress to do something about it, by enacting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803).
Bottom line: great news!