Pew Research Poll: Support For Abortion Slips

Contact: Loralei Coyle, 202.419.4556 or Robbie Mills, 202.419.4564


Washington, DC - 10/01/2009 - A new national survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that fewer Americans express support for abortion than in previous years.

In Pew Research Center polls in 2007 and 2008, supporters of legal abortion clearly outnumbered opponents. Now Americans are evenly divided on the question, and there have been modest increases in the numbers who favor reducing abortions or making them harder to obtain.

Conducted from Aug. 11-27 among a total of 4,013 adults, the new poll reveals less support for abortion among most demographic and political groups. The survey also finds that the abortion debate has receded in importance, especially among liberals. At the same time, opposition to abortion has grown more firm among conservatives.

No single reason for the shift in opinions is apparent, but the pattern of changes suggests that the election of a pro-choice Democrat for president may be a contributing factor.

Other notable findings include:

  • One of the largest declines in support for legal abortion has occurred among white, non-Hispanic Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly. Substantial change has also occurred among Democratic men (with support for legal abortion down nine points) but not among Democratic women.
  • Even as the public expresses support for finding a middle ground on abortion, most Americans are quite certain that their own position on abortion is the right one, with only one-quarter saying they ever wonder about their views on the issue.
  • Furthermore, many people on both sides of the issue say that the opposite point of view on abortion is not a "respectable" opinion for someone to hold.
  • Overall, roughly three-in-ten Americans think that President Barack Obama will handle the abortion issue about right, while four-in-ten are unaware of his position on the issue. About two-in-ten worry that Obama will go too far in supporting abortion rights.
The report, including a detailed executive summary, methodology and topline questionnaire, is available on the Pew Forum's Web site. Additional results from the survey will be released in subsequent reports.

This survey is a joint effort of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Both are projects of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan "fact tank" that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

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