According to a recent Pew Forum poll , the level of support for abortion has dropped:

Between August and late October 2008, the proportion supporting legal abortion ranged from 57 percent (in mid-October) to 53 percent (in late October), before declining to 46 percent currently. Though opinion among some subgroups varied significantly across those surveys, some trends are apparent, aside from the falloff in support among men.

There has been notable decline in the proportion of independents saying abortion should be legal in most or all cases; majorities of independents favored legal abortion in August and the two October surveys, but just 44 percent do so today. In addition, the proportion of moderate and liberal Republicans saying abortion should be legal declined between August and late October (from 67 percent to 57 percent). In the current survey, just 43 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans say abortion should legal in most or all cases.

Among religious groups, support for abortion has steadily declined since August among white mainline Protestants (from 69 percent then to 54 percent currently). And just 23 percent of white evangelical Protestants now favor legal abortion, down from 33 percent in August and mid-October and 28 percent in late October.

The change has been less pronounced among white non-Hispanic Catholics: In August, 51 percent said that abortion should be legal in most or all cases; in both October surveys, 55 percent favored legal abortion. In the current survey, 49 percent of white non-Hispanic Catholics say that abortion should be legal while 42 percent believe it should be illegal.


Thinking about these numbers in chart form is easier, so I recommend visiting Pew’s website and taking a look. The biggest change in opinion has come from older men and women, mainline protestants, moderate Republicans, and independent voters.

Why these folks, and why the sudden decline in general? The only answer that comes to mind for me would be an increase in campaigning by pro-lifers after threats of FOCA, the reversal of the Mexico City policy, and other presidential matters, but I’m not fully satisfied with it. If other contributors have hypotheses, fire away.

Articles by Nathaniel Peters

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