Recent Polls Show Gains in Pro-Life Sentiment

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Last month, two polls were released which showed gains in public support for the pro-life position. In early April, Rasmussen released a poll which indicates that 40 percent of Americans consider themselves “pro-life.” The pro-life position gained four percentage points from a previous survey Rasmussen conducted in January 2013.

While, this figure may seem low, keep in mind that pro-life sentiment is about 10 percentage points lower in Rasmussen polls than in Gallup surveys. This might be due to the fact that Rasmussen surveys likely voters while Gallup surveys the entire population.

Screen shot 2013-05-08 at 3.40.02 PMSimilarly, an April NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 52 percent of Americans feel that abortion should either be totally illegal or legal only in the cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother. This is an increase of 8 percentage points from a poll taken in January 2013 and an increase of 5 percentage points from a poll taken in September 2008. Additionally, on April 12 The Washington Post analyzed public opinion trends on abortion. They never engaged the faulty post-election spin that the pro-life position lost ground in 2012. However, their analysis indicated that opinion toward abortion has remained fairly constant during the past several years.

Furthermore, it also contributed to a body of survey data which shows that attitudes toward abortion are becoming more similar across generations.

It is hard to say what caused the recent increase in pro-life sentiment. It is possible that the coverage of the Kermit Gosnell trial is responsible. It is also possible that the Obama campaign’s advocacy for abortion rights resulted in a temporary increase in pro-choice sentiment during the fall. In fairness, the pro-life gains could also be caused by random fluctuations in the characteristics of those included in the surveys. Regardless, these data points all contribute to a body of evidence which shows that, despite a difficult election cycle for pro-lifers, public opinion toward abortion has remained relatively stable over the long term.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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About Author

MICHAEL J. NEW, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan – Dearborn. He is also an Adjunct Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Research and Education Arm of the Susan B. Anthony List. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Dartmouth College, Dr. New received a master’s degree in statistics and a doctorate in political science from Stanford University in 2002. Before coming to Michigan, Dr. New worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard-MIT Data Center and later taught at The University of Alabama. Dr. New researches and writes about the social science of pro-life issues. He gives presentations on both the positive impact of pro-laws and the gains in public support for the pro-life position. He is a frequent blogger on National Review Online's "The Corner." Dr. New's study pro-life legislation was recently published by State Politics and Policy Quarterly. Four of his other studies on the effects of pro-life legislation have been published by the Heritage Foundation and another study was published by Family Research Council in 2008.

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