Yes — Roman Catholics are Pro-Life


marchforlifeEarlier this month, Quinnipac University released the results of a survey on attitudes toward abortion. It found that 37 percent of Americans think that abortion should be illegal in “all” or “most” cases.  This is broadly consistent with previous surveys. Quinnipac has conducted polls on abortion attitudes 5 times since January 2010 and the percentage of respondents stating that abortion should be illegal in “all” or “most” cases has ranged from 37 percent to 42 percent.

The demographic breakdown of the survey was interesting.   Men were more likely than women to feel that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. But the difference was slight – only 3 percentage points.  This contributes to a broad body of evidence that men and women have fairly similar views about abortion. Also, those over 65 were more likely to oppose abortion. However, all other age groups had very similar views – even those between the ages of 18-29.   Historically, many surveys have shown that young adults are far more supportive of legal abortion than other age groups. However, there is a growing body of evidence that the current generation of young adults is more pro-life than past cohorts of young adults.

However, the most interesting finding from the Quinnipac survey involved religion. Quinnipac found that Catholics were actually 6 percentage points more likely to feel abortion should be illegal in either ‘all’ or ‘most’ cases. Many previous polls have found that the opinions of Catholics are consistent with those of the general public. Countless pundits enjoy pointing this out – smugly stating that Bishops need to do a better job persuading their congregations. However, these same pundits conveniently forget that churchgoing Catholics are far more pro-life than the rest of the population. Indeed, the Quinnipac survey found that among Catholics who attend Mass on a weekly basis – 60 percent think that abortion should be illegal in “all” or “most” circumstances.

The Quinnipac survey also found that given the choice between restricting abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy or 20 weeks of pregnancy – 55 percent of Americans supported a 20 week ban.  In fact, a 20 week ban enjoyed support from a very wide range of demographic groups.  Pluralities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all support a 20 week ban. Also pluralities from every age group and every income level support restricting abortion after 20 weeks. This shows that pursuing a 20 week abortion ban is both good politics and good policy for pro-lifers.

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


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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