PRINCETON, NJ — 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.
The decline in Americans’ self-identification as “pro-choice” is seen across the three U.S. political groups.
Since 2001, the majority of Republicans have consistently taken the pro-life position, but by a gradually increasing margin over “pro-choice.” That gap expanded further this year, with the percentage of Republicans identifying as pro-life increasing to 72% from 68% last May, and those identifying as pro-choice dropping to 22% from 28%. Still, Republicans’ current views are similar to those found in 2009.
The percentage of political independents identifying as pro-choice is 10 points lower today than in May 2011, while the percentage pro-life is up by six points. As a result, pro-lifers now outnumber pro-choicers among this important swing political group for only the second time since 2001, with the first occurring in 2009.
More broadly, since 2009, independents have been fairly closely divided between the two abortion positions, whereas for most of the 2001-2008 period, significantly more independents were pro-choice than pro-life.
Democrats’ views on abortion have changed the least over the past 12 years, with roughly 60% calling themselves pro-choice and about a third pro-life. Democrats’ identification as pro-choice was above this range in May 2011, but has returned to about 60% in the current poll.
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