A recent Gallup poll revealed that Americans remain evenly divided regarding their opinions on abortion: An equal number of respondents identified themselves as “pro-choice” and “pro-life,” according to the polling agency’s website. Gallup conducted the study in early May, as the Iowa legislature debated a measure to ban most abortions in the state after doctors have detected a fetal heartbeat.
The results of the poll do not differ significantly from similar studies conducted by Gallup since 2000. Over the past decade and a half, an average of 47% and 46% of Americans have considered themselves pro-choice and pro-life, respectively. However, the pro-life movement has gained traction since the 1990s, when pro-choice respondents outnumbered pro-life respondents by a 9% margin.
The Gallup poll also revealed that Americans hold diverse views about abortion policy. Moderate voters, who favor legal abortion “only under certain circumstances,” comprised 50% of respondents. Meanwhile, roughly one-third (29%) of individuals believed abortion should be legal “under any circumstances.” 18% favored total bans on abortion. All told, 68% of Americans favor at least some restrictions on abortion.
Remarkably, Americans’ opinions on abortion policy have varied little over the past four decades, the study showed. For example, during both the 1970s and the 2010s, roughly 53% of respondents advocated at least some restrictions on abortion.
A similarly consistent trend marks Americans’ views on the morality of abortion: “Though attitudes have fluctuated, at no point have more Americans said abortion is morally acceptable than have said it is morally wrong,” Gallup noted. By Gallup’s reckoning, 48% of individuals currently believe abortion is immoral, while only 43% view the practice as morally acceptable.
Overall, Gallup’s study should encourage pro-life activists, who may occasionally view themselves as an embattled minority striving to turn the tide of public opinion against abortion. In fact, half of Americans self-identify as pro-life, nearly 70% approve of at least some abortion restrictions, and most consider abortion morally objectionable. Thus, the pro-life cause should acknowledge its substantial base of support, which has continued to remain broad in recent decades.