By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A new poll has found that since the election of the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history, public support for abortion has seen the largest drop in one year since pollsters began tracking the topic in 1995. With the exception of Roman Catholic voters, even the concept of “common ground” on the issue is losing public support.
According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, support for abortion dropped from seven points – from 54 to 47 percent – since Pres. Obama took office. While no single reason for the shift in opinions is apparent, the pattern of change suggests that the election of a pro-abortion president may be a contributing factor, researchers said.
The shift in opinion is broad-based, appearing in most demographic groups in the population. One of the largest shifts (10 points) has occurred among white, non-Hispanic Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly. Substantial change has also occurred among Democratic men (with support for abortion down nine points), but not among Democratic women.
The lateset survey also found opposition to abortion growing more firm among conservatives who have become less supportive of finding a middle ground on the issue and more certain of the correctness of their own views on abortion. “ . . .(F)ully half of conservative Republicans (52%) – the political group most opposed to abortion – say they worry Obama will go too far in supporting abortion rights,” the report states.
“It’s pretty unusual,” senior Pew researcher Greg Smith to the Washington Times. “In 2007 and 2008, supporters of abortion clearly outnumbered opponents by a 14-point margin. Now the margin is 3 percent. Basically, they are evenly divided.”
These findings agree with a similar Gallup Values and Beliefs survey in May that showed more Americans consider themselves to be pro-life (51 percent) than pro-choice (42 percent). A Pew survey released in May found an even larger drop of 8 percentage points – 54 to 46 percent since August 2008 – of abortion rights advocates. The biggest drops in support were among white mainline Protestants and men. Approval among both groups fell by 10 percent.
This shift in attitude away from abortion is also evident in other measures of public opinion on the issue. For instance, four-in-ten Americans (41%) now say they favor making it more difficult to obtain an abortion, up six points from 35 percent in 2007. Similar movement is seen on the question of whether it would be good to reduce the number of abortions in this country; in 2005, 59 percent of respondents agreed it would be good to reduce abortions. Today 65 percent take this view, an increase of six points. And three-quarters (76%) continue to favor requiring minors to obtain the permission of a parent before having an abortion.
The survey also found that the idea of a “common ground” on abortion, a key tenet of the Obama administration, is apparently not resonating with either major political party or the religiously affiliated and non-affiliated. The most disenchanted with the idea are white evangelical Protestants, whose support for a middle ground dropped 21 percentage points (from 61 percent to 40 percent) since 2006. The one exception is Roman Catholics, whose support for common ground rose 4 points, from 63 to 67 percent.
Pew researchers were able to pinpoint this past spring as the turning point in public perception of the abortion issue. “There is no one answer that explains the shift,” Mr. Smith said. “The election of a Democratic pro-choice president could be a contributing factor.”
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