WASHINGTON (January 21, 1998) -- The 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade brings with it an increase in the number of Americans who identify with the "pro-life" designation and a corresponding decrease in the number calling themselves "pro-choice," according to a new poll released today by the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"The straightforward and precise questions used in this poll make it one of the best indicators available today of American opinion on abortion," said Helen Alvare, Director of Planning and Information for the Pro-Life Secretariat. "Its results belie the commonly used but inaccurate assertion that Americans morally disapprove of abortion but don't want to outlaw it. Clearly, the majority of Americans oppose the vast majority of abortions, both morally and legally."
The nationwide survey, conducted by Baselice & Associates, found the number of Americans identifying themselves as "pro-life" rose to 42%--from 39% in 1995--and the number identifying themselves as "pro-choice" declined from 49% to 45% over the same period.
The poll also shows a clear majority of Americans opposing the legality of the majority of abortions currently performed. Fifty-three percent of those questioned would prohibit all abortions, or permit them only for reasons of rape, incest, and endangerment to the mother's life--which constitute only one to three percent of all abortions performed today. According to Ms. Alvare, this sentiment would effectively outlaw between 97 and 99% of all abortions currently performed.
Among those who would outlaw most abortions, women outnumber men by 58% to 50%.
"The poll shows that more and more Americans are better informed about the goals of the groups that call themselves pro-choice, which is legal abortion for any reason throughout pregnancy, and even partial-birth abortion," Ms. Alvare continued. "Although the majority of Americans have opposed most abortions for some time now, the 'choice' label has held a superficial appeal. But recent events, including the debate over partial-birth abortion and the relentless opposition of abortion defenders to informed consent and parental involvement with a minor's abortion surgery, have opened people's eyes," Ms. Alvare said.
The poll shows a decline in self-described "pro-choicers" according to each age group surveyed. There was a seven point decline (from 59 to 52%) among voters with a college degree. Independent voters, who leaned pro-choice over pro-life by a 52 to 34% margin in 1995, now split almost evenly--41% "pro-choice" vs. 39% "pro-life."
Combining the numbers of those who take abortion positions that are substantially consistent with the self-chosen label, the poll found 37% to be consistently pro-life compared to 33% consistently pro-choice.
The poll was conducted among 1,002 voters from January 12-15, 1998. The margin of error for a sample of this size is plus or minus 3.1%.
NOTE: The survey results are available upon request.