A Marist poll released this morning shows that Americans’ attitudes on abortion are nowhere near as extreme as radical pro-choicers make them out to be. This is obviously good news for political discourse and the sanctity of human life, although likely vexing for members of the #ShoutYourAbortion groups that are hellbent on releasing cutesy coffee table books on the matter.
This Year’s Data
For the last 11 years, the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which is supported by the Knights of Columbus, has tracked public opinion on abortion attitudes. This year’s results look at a sample size of 1,066 American adults, and found that roughly 55 percent of adults identify themselves as pro-choice, while 38 percent claim to be pro-life (7 percent say they’re unsure).
But just because most Americans seem broadly convinced on the abortion question doesn’t mean they support abortion-on-demand or abortion at all times, in all circumstances. In fact, many seem uneasy with certain practices: only 15 percent of all adults believe abortion should be available to a woman at any point during pregnancy.
About 27 percent believe abortion should only be available “during the first three months of pregnancy,” with 28 percent of adults supporting abortion “only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother,” 10 percent of Americans supporting abortion only when it saves the life of the mother, and 10 percent saying it should be permitted under no circumstances whatsoever. When those numbers are taken together, about 75 percent of respondents believe in some form of significant abortion restriction.
Interestingly, when looking at more specific circumstances, people’s opinions of what’s morally permissible are much more restrictive than most pro-choice activists would have you think. About 62 percent of all adults surveyed oppose aborting a child with Down syndrome. Roughly 54 percent of people either oppose or strongly oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortions (with 75 percent opposing using tax dollars to pay for abortions in other countries).
Misunderstanding Faith-Based Convictions
The most frustrating results will likely be glazed over. When asked “Do you think doctors, nurses, or organizations who have moral objections to abortion should or should not be required to perform or provide insurance coverage for abortions?” 35 percent of respondents said doctors and nurses should be legally required to perform abortions that violate their consciences, or organizations should be legally required to provide insurance coverage for abortions (55 percent said they should not be legally required and 10 percent of people surveyed were unsure).
To me, this shows a shocking disregard for people of faith and the rest of the populace’s understanding of how deeply held many of those convictions are. Unfortunately, the war between religious and non-religious minds is not getting much worse or much better, at least based on prior Marist polling on this specific issue: in 2018, 38 percent of respondents said it should be legally required. In 2017, 35 percent said it should be legally required, while 60 percent believed doctors, nurses, and organizations should not be legally required to support or perform abortions. In both 2017 and 2018, the percentage of “unsure” respondents hovered at around 6 percent.
Other startling, but not altogether new, results include:
- 19 percent of respondents believe a person’s life begins when a fetus is viable and can live outside the womb.
- 42 percent of respondents believe that life begins at conception.
- 13 percent of respondents believe a person’s life begins when born.
Thirty-five percent of respondents say that “the scientific view of a human fetus” roughly supports that “it is part of a woman’s body” while 56 percent of respondents say that “it is a unique life.”
This Marist data just confirms what people who follow abortion already knew: for the most part, people are nowhere near as polarized and unreasonable as the Twitter political hypochondriacs and unhinged doomsayers might have you believe. Many people are apathetic, uninformed, or go with what’s popular and seemingly socially acceptable.
Many people do what is easy, and lots of people don’t have a clear sense of why they have a visceral discomfort with abortions done at certain times during gestation or in certain circumstances. Lots of people are unsure in various areas––they’re unsure whether people of faith should be exempt from being required to support abortion in some form as a part of their jobs, they’re unsure whether a fetus is more “part of a woman’s body” or a unique being deserving of protection.
Pro-lifers should take heart; this means more people can be convinced, and that maybe the ultra-radical wing alienates more people than it proselytizes.