A new Gallup poll shows that the pro-life position has once again reclaimed — narrowly — the majority among American adults. Support for abortion dropped to its lowest level in the 18-year polling series, and the pro-life view gained among all partisan groups:
The 41% of Americans who now identify themselves as “pro-choice” is down from 47% last July and is one percentage point below the previous record low in Gallup trends, recorded in May 2009. Fifty percent now call themselves “pro-life,” one point shy of the record high, also from May 2009.
Gallup began asking Americans to define themselves as pro-choice or pro-life on abortion in 1995, and since then, identification with the labels has shifted from a wide lead for the pro-choice position in the mid-1990s, to a generally narrower lead for “pro-choice” — from 1998 through 2008 — to a close division between the two positions since 2009. However, in the last period, Gallup has found the pro-life position significantly ahead on two occasions, once in May 2009 and again today. It remains to be seen whether the pro-life spike found this month proves temporary, as it did in 2009, or is sustained for some period.
Actually, the trending on this has been in motion for several years, as the Gallup chart demonstrates:
This could reverse in the future, but the overall trend is falling support for abortion and rising support for pro-life positions. The same trend can be seen in the partisan demos. Republicans have backed the pro-life position all along, but support for abortion ran in the 30s until 2009, and has now declined to a new low of 22%. The change has been less dramatic among Democrats, but support for abortion dropped to 58% in this poll, a decline of ten points in the last year and the lowest since 2003. Independents now favor the pro-life position 47/41, a dramatic shift from last years’ 51/41 support for abortion, and the trend lines for independents roughly mirror the trends of the overall population.
We are seeing a societal shift in attitudes in abortion. While a majority believe that abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, that number has been slowly drifting downward over the series, too, although the “legal in any circumstance” proportion has held steady in the mid-20s. People seem more willing to identify as pro-life despite an overwhelming media and cultural bias in favor of abortion as a liberty issue. With the US conducting over a million abortions every year and people gain a clearer understanding of the development of children in utero, the practice cannot help seem more and more barbaric. We may still see some hiccups and occasional spikes in the wrong direction, but the long-term prospects for abortion support look almost as grim as abortion itself.