Reversal in WSJ/NBC poll: Majority once again thinks abortion should be illegal in most or all circumstances

Blogworthy not just because it complements the Gosnell coverage but because this old post kicked off two days of arguments in the comments about whether Americans really were becoming more pro-abortion over time. That trend fit with various other trends towards social liberalization, starting with gay marriage, and with post-election claims that the long-touted Democratic realignment had arrived.

False alarm:


Good news and bad news there for pro-lifers. The bad news: The new numbers are in line with most of the other data over the last 10 years. Americans aren’t becoming more pro-choice but they’re not really becoming more pro-life either. (If the Gosnell story breaks out in a big way, that may change in the next round of polling.) The good news: The January numbers showing 54 percent in favor of legal abortion in most or all circumstances looks like an outlier. Either it’s statistical noise or the Akin/Mourdock backlash from last summer finally faded and left pollsters with the pre-2012 status quo. At the very least, you can take the new numbers as a sign that Republicans’ efforts to limit abortion at the state level aren’t generating a backlash (yet).

Still, though, 45 percent support abortion rights in most or all circumstances. What does that mean specifically? WaPo answers:


You can see vividly in that second column why Akin and Mourdock were such a liability for the GOP. There’s good news and bad news in this data too, of course. The good news is that abortions for reasons of personal convenience draw majority opposition, even in cases where the mother says she can’t afford the child. The bad news is that there’s more than 40 percent support for abortion under every circumstance here, even when you phrase it as blithely as “for any reason.” (Oddly, “for any reason” appears to have more support than “Don’t want to marry the man,” which I would think falls under”any reason.”) I often hear pro-lifers say that future generations will look back in horror at what America permitted over the last 40 years in the name of “women’s health”; I wish that were true, but I’m not sure what they expect to see happen between now and, say, 2050 to move these numbers dramatically. You’ve got 40 percent of the public, and probably 80 percent of the media, willing to bless fetal neck-snipping on demand as some sort of civil-libertarian triumph. What’s going to dissolve those numbers? If the facts of the Gosnell case don’t do it, what?