January 25, 2001
volume 12, no. 19
Poll Reveals Most Americans Oppose Most Abortions

    NEW YORK, NY (ABC News/Washington Post Results from ProLifeInfonet) - Twenty-eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion legal, although some Americans support abortion in very rare circumstances, most Americans oppose the overwhelming number of abortions.

    Generally, 59 percent say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a number that's held fairly steady the last several years -- however a majority opposes legal abortion if it's performed solely to end an unwanted pregnancy, which constitutes most abortions.

    Indeed, views on abortion run a spectrum. At one end, eight in 10 or more say abortion should be legal to preserve the mother's life or health, or when the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. At the other end, 55 percent say abortion should be illegal "when the woman is not married and does not want the baby." That most Americans oppose most abortions has been constant for many years.

    The basic question asks if abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases or illegal in all cases -- this confuses the issue when Americans' views on which abortions should be legal or illegal is so nuanced. Relatively few people take the ends of the spectrum: Twenty-one percent want abortion legal "in all cases," while 14 percent want it always illegal.

    As long has been the case, women and men oppose abortion in roughly equal numbers. Some 58 percent of men say abortion should be illegal to end an unwanted pregnancy, so do 52 percent of women. Opposition to abortion also is essentially the same among Catholics as among others -- again, as long has been the case. In the specific case of an unwanted child, white Catholics are nine points more likely than white Protestants to support legal abortion.

    There are notable differences among political and ideological groups. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to support abortion and conservatives are more likely than liberals and moderates to oppose abortion. Opposition is highest among the 9 percent of Americans who describe themselves as part of the conservative Christian political movement. Seventy percent in this group say abortion should be generally illegal.

    People who say they voted for George W. Bush in November oppose abortion in greater numbers than those who supported Al Gore. Bush supporters say no to abortion by a 2-1 margin, 65-34 percent; Gore supporters say yes, by a similar margin.

    An analysis during the election found that pro-life women assigned the highest importance to abortion as a factor in their vote, followed by pro-life men. The lowest focus on the issue came from men who favor legal abortion.

    There are differences in support for legal abortion among other groups: It's lowest among older, less-educated and lower-income Americans, and higher in the East and West than in the South or Midwest.

    The public gives a comparatively low priority to one specific item on the abortion agenda, a ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortion. Forty-five percent say this should receive either a high priority or the highest priority in Washington, ranking it last of 18 items tested. Among those who say abortion should be generally illegal, 70 percent give priority to a ban on partial-birth abortion. But among the majority who favor generally legal abortion, just 28 percent give a priority to banning this specific procedure.

    This ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 11-15, among a random national sample of 1,513 adults. The results have a 2.5-point error margin. Fieldwork conducted by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa

For other news stories, see

January 25, 2001
volume 12, no. 25
DAILY News regarding the Sanctity of Life

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