So, I was inspired by my previous post on the matter to actually look at some recent data. Thanks to NCSU’s subscription to the fabulous Roper poll archive I was able to get the entire dataset for last year’s Gallup survey on abortion attitudes. Most datasets give you questions about policy opinions or “pro-life vs. pro choice” but not both, but this dataset has both, which is awesome. I’m going to share five separate crosstabs which make it quite clear that being pro-choice vs. pro-life is more complicated than you might think.
First, you can see that even those who are “pro-life” think abortion should be legal “under certain circumstances.” Meanwhile, a very high proportion of pro-choice fall there as well. I do wonder about those roughly 5% of each who seem to be in the completely wrong category.
Also quite interesting to note that waiting periods are broadly popular–even gathering a clear majority of “pro-choice” identifiers.
And as for “partial-birth” abortion, again, even most “pro-choice” supporters think this should be illegal. Yet almost 1/3 of “pro-life don’t necessarily think it should be illegal.
Here we see more of the strong pro-life/pro-choice split you might expect. I was wondering if this might be due to the fact that this issue recently became politicized, but then I realized that this is 2011 data, so this is one of the larger policy differences.
And finally, we also see a strong split on federal funding for abortion, but I think it is most noteworthy that over 40% of self-identified pro-life are fine with this, yet among political elites who are pro-life you will very rarely find any support for this.
Short version: It’s complicated. It’s very complicated. Don’t let anybody (i.e., journalists and/or pundits) tell you otherwise.