Support for Legal Abortion Up Among Both Democrats and Republicans

Nearly 60 percent of Americans expressed pro-choice views in a new AP-GfK poll.


The Other Self/Flickr

Despite Planned Parenthood "exposes" and the endless preening rhetoric of conservative politicians, support for legal abortion in America is at a high-point. In a new AP-GfK poll of U.S. voters, 58 percent of respondents said they think abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, the highest level of support pollsters have seen in the past two years. What's more, pro-choice attitudes are on the rise among both Democrats and Republicans. 

In this month's poll, some 40 percent of Republicans voiced support for legal abortion, compared to just 35 percent last January. Overall, 51 percent of poll respondents expressed pro-choice views in that early 2015 survey. Democratic support for legal abortion in all or most cases rose from 69 percent in January to 76 percent in the latest poll, while support from voters who label themselves "independent" has edged up from 43 to 54 percent. 

The AP-Gfk poll involved 1,007 adults and was conducted online December 3-7, just a week after anti-abortion zealot Robert Lewis Deer allegedly killed three people outside of a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic. Ironically, Deer's "pro-life" activism seems, if anything, to have pushed people toward increased support for reproductive freedom.

Asked about Planned Parenthood specifically, 45 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion, 30 percent had a negative opinion, and 25 percent weren't sure. 

The people quoted in AP's article all support legal abortion, albeit with a range of caveats. One is a conservative who supports late-term abortion bans but thinks making the procedure illegal overall would just lead to dangerous black-market abortions. Another is a liberal who told AP, "A woman has the right to decide what she wants to do with her body. I don't think the government has a right to interfere." Another, an independent, doesn't think abortion's legality is "a matter of discussion," though she does worry that "just anybody," including young women, can go and get one. 

The poll serves as a good reminder that while self-interested politicians and pundits love to play the abortion card, especially around election season, the vast majority of Americans hold fairly moderate and nuanced positions on abortion. It is far, far from the all-or-nothing proposition that many in the public eye would make it out to be. While the exact parameters of legal abortion can generate heated discussion—should a ban start at 20 or 24 weeks? Must minors always notify their parents? Is requiring a pre-abortion ultrasound helpfully informative or paternalistic and patronizing?—and people's personal beliefs about the morality of abortion are all over the map, the broad principle that a woman should be able to terminate a pregnancy in a safe and legal manner up to the point of fetal viability is a well-established American position.

For nearly two decades, the percentage of U.S. adults who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases has held steady near 55 percent, according to Pew Research Center data, while those who think it should be illegal in all or most circumstances has hovered around 40 percent. In Gallup polls dating back to 1975, the percentage of Americans who say abortion should be legal under certain circumstances has gone as low as 48 percent and as high as 61 percent but generally hovered in the low-to-mid 50s range. The percentage of Americans who think abortion should be legal under any circumstances has never dropped below its 1975 baseline of 21 percent, and now stands around 29 percent. The percentage who think abortion should always be illegal has gone as low as 12 percent, as high as 22 percent, and has averaged 18 percent in polls since 2010. 

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  1. I am guessing this “endless preening rhetoric” will be ENB’s….if they get around to by-lining it.

    1. It did have Rico’s name on it at first, but that byline has appeared to have been terminated.

      1. So intern’s write the stories and affix the nom de plume’s of the reason celebs? Is that how it’s done? Or do Reason writers suffer from multiple personality disorder?

        1. *apostrophic malfunction

  2. An abortion thread to start the day! Can’t wait for the rest of the Mexican abortion ass sex (with pot!) pantheon to show up.

    1. Don’t worry. AM Links will snuff this little guy out before he even sees the light of day.

  3. “Must minors always notify their parents?”

    Never understood why this was in question legally. Minors aren’t allowed to get prescriptions or anything but immediate life saving surgery (car wreck situation, not I’ll die in one to two days but you still have time to contact my parents situation) without parents permission. Why would abortion be any different?

    1. “Why would abortion be any different?” You obviously hate the women.

  4. OT: No indictment in Sandra Bland case


  5. Did anyone poll the Millennials?

  6. 1000 people

    1. Well, to be fair, ENB’s reporting carries the appropriately ‘up, but otherwise un-noteworthy’ tone.

  7. Legal under certain circumstances: 51%

    Which could mean anything from “Only when the woman’s life is in danger” to “okay, for 8 months and 29 days after conception but not a second longer.”

    1. Yeah. That’s kind of what the whole post was about.

      1. I find the wording fairly weasely.

        Being in the “Medical Necessity” camp, I find it irritating that they refuse to separate between “Medical Necessity”, “Pre-Quickening”, “Viability”, and “8mos, 29days” groups in their breakdown. I’d wager “Pre-quickening” and “Fetal viability” are the largest groups in this debate.

        1. It is far, far from the all-or-nothing proposition that many in the public eye would make it out to be.

          Yep, super weaselly.

          1. Shes making the case in the headline that support is up and points to moderate positions of 20-24 weeks etc.

            That’s not the same as pointing out that the question could include those who she would not consider “moderate”.

            Saying Its a shitty question that could mean anything is not the same as assuming the question supports your position as ENB did. And that’s not what the article was about at all.

            1. The bottom paragraph and poll numbers, from older Gallup polls, talked of “certain circumstances.” The AP poll which the headline and most of the post are referring to talked of “all” or “most” circumstances. So the interpretation is actually a lot less broad than you’re making it out to be: 58 percent think abortion should always or mostly always be legal.

            2. Support for legal abortion is up. That’s what the data shows. Period.

        2. If they did it that way you would see an overwhelming majority against the abortion laws we actually have.

    2. The “legal under certain circumstances” crowd is certainly going to be a diverse group. Maybe they should consider breaking it into two, one for those who are pro-choice for primarily circumstantial reasons, and one for those who base their decision primarily on the age of the fetus.

      1. Hell, why not just break it down by the circumstances. I’m pretty sure that except for the occasional outlier most people will fall into some broad group.

        1. They probably do if you dig deep enough into the poll. I was just thinking about the main table there.

  8. Hillary got “schlonged” by Obama


    1. I think Michelle is more likely to “schlong” someone than Barry O.

    2. He snaked out her pipes?

  9. So most American’s views on abortion are “nuanced and moderate” while America’s court mandated abortion laws are absolute and extreme.

    1. Or you could argue that the court mandated laws leave the most room for people to exercise their own values and morals. When the country is largely divided on an issue I think the best approach government can take is to be “hands off”.

      1. Does that apply to other types of killing? Assault? Theft? Fraud?

        1. Is the country largely divided on those issues?

          1. I run over Black Lives Matter protesters blocking the freeway…

            1)Vehicular homicide
            2)Justifiable homicide
            3)Darwin Award candidates
            4)Ticket the corpses for “jaywalking” at the morgue

            Where do you stand?

          2. Tens of thousands of people seem to think that stealing and killing is just peachy.

  10. Is undecided a choice?


    1. In the context of passing a law, don’t you have to interpret “undecided” as being against passing the law? So in this case, “undecided” would be effectively pro-choice?

  11. In 2012 abortion providers prevented nearly 700,000 jobless indigent immigrants from crossing the border into the United States. That ought to make conservatives happy.

    1. How did you come up with that number?

      1. That’s about the number of abortions performed in 2012. The CDC and other organizations keep track of the numbers. Estimates indicate that the abortion rate is probably lower now than at any time since the mid-70’s.

        1. I don’t see how that number related to jobless immigrants crossing the border.

          1. He was making a joke, equating fetuses with jobless, indigent immigrants. It’s not really that much of a stretch.

            1. At least the babies would have learned English after 5 years, which can’t be said of the migrants from below the border

        2. If by “about” you mean the number was actually 50% higher…

  12. Wait a sec, abortion should be legal “under certain circumstances” constitutes pro-choice? I guess people who favor legality only in the case of rape or incest were pro-choice all along. Who knew?

  13. the broad principle that a woman should be able to terminate a pregnancy

    I’m disappointed in your transphobic choice of words, Liz, using “woman” and “person who might potentially become pregnant” interchangeably. It’s more LGBTQ friendly to say “a cis-woman or trans-man should be able to terminate a pregnancy.” Unless, of course, you don’t think reproductive rights apply to people assigned female at birth, but who identify as male?

    1. Next time, do the joke without the “cis-woman” or “trans-man” specificity, because, of course, many ciswomen can’t get pregnant, and some transmen have had the parts removed too. You should just make her specify “people who can become pregnant.”

      1. All this heteronormativity is othering those individuals who identify as neither gender, or both, or something in between. We shouldn’t have to keep reminding people of this; I mean it’s 2015. Come on.

    2. the broad principle that an impregnated person should be able to terminate a pregnancy


  14. While the exact parameters of legal abortion can generate heated discussion…

    Out of curiosity, in general does anyone here see both sides of this issue? Everyone who debates in these threads (which I admittedly normally steer clear of so I probably shouldn’t be generalizing here but I’m going to anyway so suck it) seems to have his or her unqualified position on the subject.

    Does anyone think, yes, that’s a life that deserves a chance and should be protected from third party aggression while at the same time believe it’s unthinkable to force a person to put her body through the trauma of carrying and delivering a child against her will? Is there any ambivalence out there?

    1. I’m pro-choice before viability and on the fence after viability. My official position is that the issue is too complicated for government to add any value, so it should just butt out and let the individuals involved in each specific case make the call.

    2. I’m a pro-life extremist because I steadfastly believe that after implantation that the unborn is a human with rights – however were I convinced that the unborn are not humans with rights I would immediately be fully pro-choice because unless protecting human life, government should have no input on family planning or medicine. Thus, while I am super right-wing on this I try not to paint stark moral pictures or villainize pro-choice folks, because we have a definition difference, not a moral or civil rights difference.

      1. I try not to paint stark moral pictures or villainize pro-choice folks, because we have a definition difference, not a moral or civil rights difference.

        Polite disagree. There are plenty of people on the pro-choice side who certainly have simply a difference of definition. However, there are also plenty of people on the pro-choice side who would damn the definitions one way or the other and really just want to zealously ‘defend women’. Some are remorseful about the means by which the end is achieved, but plenty see dead babies as a cost of doing business. And there are some who are worse than that.

        There are certainly villains on both sides and they, and their supporters, earn any villainy they get. While I don’t agree with what Deer did, I wouldn’t shed a tear if he’d shot Kermit Gosnell dead.

    3. Everyone sees both sides.

    4. That depends.

      Which position gets the most votes?

    5. I can’t see it as ‘forcing’.

      If you pick up a ball and throw it directly at a window, while knowing beforehand that doing so is the way that most windows get broken–by people hitting them with stuff–then how can it be forcing? You knew.

      And if you’ve gotta then pay for that window–even if you don’t want to, even if you don’t like who you’re paying, well, that’s your own damned fault.

      And you don’t get to not pay for the window because it’s inconvenient, or because it’ll take time and money from something else you wanted to do.

      And you certainly don’t get to kill the person whose window you broke.

      1. But, what if the window belongs to me? Then I don’t have to fix it.

        If you don’t believe that the fetus is a person with a right to life, then the mother owns it as a part of her body. She can kill it if she wants to.

  15. I would think that the majority would be pro choice. The question I would like asked is “Do you think abortion should be used as a form of birth control”. I think the majority of Democrats and Republicans would say no. The argument about rape is mute since most rape victims are offered the morning after pill. Incest is another question but I still believe a 20 week or 5 month ban is appropriate. Personally I would like to see a women only election on a ban of abortions after 20 weeks. Let them decide and stop talking about it.

    1. most people who report a rape victims are offered the morning after pill

    2. Personally I would like to see a women only election on a ban of abortions after 20 weeks.

      Voluntary election or are you talking about deliberately excluding men from having any say in the process outside of sperm donor?

  16. Gallup Poll: 55% of Americans Want All or Most Abortions Made Illegal

    It’s all in how the questions are asked and how the pollsters and reporters spin it.

  17. The interesting thing is that if you compare abortion laws around the world, the US is actually pretty unremarkable – maybe even still more liberal than most. I think much of the problem is that we Americans, bless our hearts, have a lot of trouble compromising or living with what we see as a flawed solution. If you really believe that abortion is murder, then of course you think even a single one is unacceptable. If you think that any restrictions on abortion are unconscionable, then there are maybe three or four countries in the world that would live up to your standards.

    For example, in Germany, abortion is only legal in the first trimester, after the woman has had government-approved anti-abortion counseling and sat out a waiting period of three days, something you’d think only happened in Alabama if you listened to most American pro-choice advocates. At the same time, in a lot of countries, abortion up to about the half-way point of the pregnancy is legal and available pretty much on demand, and nobody’s going around firebombing clinics (mostly).

    1. Wait–it sounds a whole lot like you’re saying that most of the world has a 20 week ban–

      At the same time, in a lot of countries, abortion up to about the half-way point of the pregnancy is legal and available pretty much on demand,

      40 weeks halved is 20 weeks. This is the utter horror that right wingers, anti-abortion incrementalists are after–and you’re saying that glorious Europe and other tasteful and decent nations(you know they’re decent if they dabble in socialism) use this/ Pshaw.

      And you’re saying Germany, blessed, enlightened, Germany restricts it even further? Nonsense.

      Why, that would mean that the abortion laws in America are BETTER than they are in most of the world. And that’s just unpossible.

  18. An academic group has invented an artificial uterus and placenta that can allow preterm lambs to develop to full term. It was presented at a recent neonatology conference.

    Once this hits the market, there will be no more excuses for late term elective abortions. As if there were, now.

  19. Here’s The poll.

    Notice that according to the poll support for gun rights has gone down a good deal compared to 2013.

    Taking a poll like this a week after a guy shoots up a Planned Parenthood produces not only more support for abortion rights, but more support for gun control as well.

    Ms. Brown does not mention this part, perhaps because she wants to convey the impression that the poll respondents are becoming more enlightened, not less enlightened.

    And given the phrasing of the abortion questions, they don’t ask what kind of abortion restrictions they respondents would approve. From prior polling, we know that voters want to ban so-called elective abortions (not involving rape, incest, disability of the baby, or the life/health of the mother), but that they *underestimate* the staggering proportion of abortions which are elective. So if they say to legalize most abortions, they may have the image of large numbers of women with rape-babies and problem pregnancies.

    1. So let me try this headline:

      “A week after a horrible tragedy – a tragedy which the media thoroughly exploited in order to promote gun control and abortion – a vaguely-worded poll showed that many members of the public had been snookered by the media narrative.”

  20. How did miniature American flags poll?

  21. I wonder what acc’ts for trends like this, & also how it compares to other countries over the same time.

  22. Regardless of opinion polls/trolls; killing a human fetus will be banned for doctors at or after 12-weeks in three to six months by SCOTUS. When new fetal human beans are complete individuals but are not yet finished developing enough to be born. This is when the heartbeat is always detectable via ultrasound if the fetus is alive.

    A zygote, blastocyst and the embryo can all be frozen and stored for later use and are all fed by the egg yolk and are therefore not yet live human beans. … lol …. The fetal human bean stage begins from 10-12 weeks when the placenta begins to nourish the new human and generate the pregnancy hormones after developing from the chorionic villi. It is not a mystery when human life starts like it was in 1973, 1992.
    A frozen fetus is ALWAYS dead.

    See at Curtis J. Neeley Jr. v. Louis Jerry Edwards, et. al., (15-7059)
    Read petition in HTML at http://human-dignity-us.org
    Opinions will have absolutely no impact.
    Arkansas Act 301 will replace Roe and Casey and quickly be copied nationwide.

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