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Abramowitz: Has there been a Shift in Abortion Attitudes?


Alan I. Abramowitz is the Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also a frequent contributer to Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball.

On May 15th, the Gallup Poll reported what they described as a significant shift in Americans' attitudes on the issue of abortion. For the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 1995, more respondents described themselves as "pro-life" than "pro-choice" on the issue of abortion. The proportion of Americans describing themselves as "pro-choice" fell from 50% in May of 2008 to 42% in May of 2009 while the proportion describing themselves as "pro-life" increased from 44% to 51%. To back up this conclusion, Gallup cited a recent Pew Poll that showed a decline from 54% to 46% in the proportion of Americans who wanted abortion legal in all or most cases and an increase from 41% to 44% in the proportion who wanted abortion legal in only a few or no cases.

While the results of these two polls appear to show a shift in public opinion on abortion, Gallup neglected to report an important fact about the Pew results that might have undercut this claim. Pew has asked the same question on at least seven occasions since early 2007 with results ranging from a 45-50 split in February/March of 2007 to a 57-37 split in June of 2008. Taken together, these results show no clear trend. The 2009 results could reflect a real change, or they could just be random noise.

Gallup also made no mention of a CNN poll in late April of this year that showed a 49-44 advantage for the "pro-choice" label over the "pro-life" label. CNN has asked the "pro-life" vs. "pro-choice" question three times since 2007 with results ranging from a 45-50 split in June of 2007 to a 53-44 split in August of 2008 to the recent 49-44 split. Again, no clear trend is evident in these results.

And now a new AP poll appears to show continued stability in public attitudes on the issue of abortion. This poll, conducted between May 28 and June 1, found that 51% of Americans want abortion legal in all or most cases vs. 45% who want abortion illegal in all or most cases. These results can be compared with two polls conducted last year. An NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll in early September found 49% of Americans wanted abortion legal always or most of the time while 49% wanted it illegal with no exceptions or only a few exceptions. And a Washington Post/ABC Poll in August found that 54% of Americans wanted abortion legal in all or most cases while 44% wanted it illegal in all or most cases.

The Washington Post/ABC Poll has actually asked this question 23 times between June of 1996 and August of 2008. In these 23 polls, support for keeping abortion legal in all or most cases has ranged from 49% to 59%. Interestingly, the highest and lowest levels of support for legal abortion were found in two polls conducted only a few months apart in 2001.

The safest conclusion one can draw from these results is that at this point the evidence for a significant shift in public attitudes toward abortion is far from conclusive.

 

Comments

I want to know what is your point related to abortion issues.
I am pretty confuse about it

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