A new report from the Pew Research Center found that support for abortion rights is considerably higher among young Americans. Roughly three-quarters of 18- to 29-year-olds say abortion should generally be legal, including 30 percent who say it should be legal in all cases. Meanwhile, Americans 65 and older expressed much more tepid support — only 54 percent said abortion should be legal without exception (14 percent) or with some exceptions (40 percent).
This might not sound all that surprising since younger adults often see issues differently from older adults, but this age gap on attitudes about abortion contradicts past polling on this issue. According to the General Social Survey,1 young Americans’ views on obtaining an abortion have not been appreciably different from the public’s overall for much of the past 40-plus years. That changed fairly recently, though. On the question of whether someone should be able to get an abortion for any reason, 64 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed in 2021, a 20-percentage-point increase from a decade earlier.
In fact, over the past decade, one of the most confounding trends in public opinion has been why millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996)2 — who are less religious, more educated and more liberal than previous generations — are not stronger supporters of abortion rights. Polls have generally shown that millennials express considerable ambivalence about abortion, views that do not distinguish them from the broader public.