WASHINGTON A majority in the United States describes itself as pro-life on the abortion issue, marking a substantial change in public opinion in the last year, according to a new Gallup Poll.
The survey results released May 15 showed 51 percent of adults said they are pro-life, while 42 percent identified themselves as pro-choice. It is the first time a majority of Americans have called themselves pro-life since Gallup began asking the question in 1995. Until now, no poll had shown more than 46 percent saying they are pro-life.
A year ago, the same poll, which is titled the Gallup Values and Beliefs survey, showed 50 percent considered themselves pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life.
Gallup Poll Daily, another survey by the same organization, found almost identical results a few days after its sister poll. It showed 50 percent of Americans are pro-life and 43 percent are pro-choice.
A Pew Research Center poll released April 30 found a similar shift in opinion on abortion. That survey reported support for legal abortion fell by 8 percent in an eight-month period. The percentage of American adults who believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases declined from 54 percent in August to 46 percent, according to Pew. Those who oppose legal abortion in all or most cases increased from 41 to 44 percent.
The public's notable change on the abortion issue came during a period in which Americans selected Barack Obama, a supporter of unlimited abortion rights during his legislative career, as president and increased the number of pro-choice members in Congress in November's election.
Southern Baptist ethics leader Richard Land told Baptist Press he is "thrilled by this information but not surprised."
"I have been telling people in the media for years that the pro-life movement has yet to crest in the United States and that it is a vibrant, growing, youthful movement," said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "One cannot attend the pro-life rallies that I attend across the country and fail to notice the youth, the energy and the commitment of the men and women, boys and girls in attendance. The figures have been trending in this direction for years.
"We are winning the battle for hearts and minds in our culture on the life issue, and we in the pro-life movement must not grow weary in well-doing," Land said. "Let's thank God for blessing our efforts and redouble our efforts on behalf of the unborn."
Other factors such as the use of ultrasounds and the testimonies of post-abortive women also are at work in the public's shift on abortion, but "the most significant development in the last year is that America has the most pro-abortion president in our history," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.
"Barack Obama has revealed what 'pro-choice' means - taxpayer-funded abortions, eliminating common-sense regulations, rescinding protections for doctors and medical providers who decline to participate in abortion," Wright said in a written statement. "Ironically, Obama's radical abortion policies and nominees may have helped make America more pro-life."
Gallup's Lydia Saad made a similar observation in a release about the survey.
"It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be 'pro-choice' slightly to the left, politically," Saad wrote. "While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction."
Since taking office in January, Obama has repealed a restriction on funding organizations that perform or promote abortions oversea, restored money to a United Nations entity that supports China's coercive population control policy, proposed eliminating a ban on government-funded abortions in the District of Columbia and begun the process of reversing conscience protections for pro-life, health-care providers.
The Gallup Values and Beliefs survey also found:
• Support for legal abortion fell, with 53 percent saying it should be legal under certain circumstances, 22 percent legal under any circumstances and 23 percent illegal in all circumstances. (Gallup did not define "certain circumstances.")
• Of those who said abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, 37 of the 53 percent said "only in a few circumstances."
• Politically, Republican identification became substantially more pro-life with an increase from 60 to 70 percent in a year's time, while Democrats remained about the same, with a slight rise from 60 to 61 percent in those calling themselves pro-choice.
• Conservatives and moderates became more pro-life, with conservative pro-life identification going from 66 to 71 percent and moderate pro-life identification increasing from 38 to 45 percent; liberal pro-lifers dropped from 20 to 19 percent.
• Both Protestants and Roman Catholics became more pro-life, with Protestants going from 51 to 59 percent and Catholics from 45 to 52 percent.
• Male pro-lifers increased from 46 to 54 percent, while female pro-lifers moved from 43 to 49 percent.
The Pew Research Center survey found:
• The decline in support for legal abortion fell more among men than women, from 53 to 43 percent among males and from 54 to 49 percent among females.
• Moderate and liberal Republicans showed by far the greatest decline among various categories, dropping by 24 percentage points, from 67 to 43 percent, in their support of legal abortion.
• Protestants demonstrated the largest decrease in support of legal abortion among religious identities, falling 11 points (49 to 38 percent), while Roman Catholics dropped only 2 points (49 to 47).
• Among whites, mainline Protestant support for legal abortion fell 15 points (69 to 54), evangelical support dropped 10 points (33 to 23) and non-Hispanic Catholic support fell 2 points (51 to 49).
• In the overall political categories, support by independents for legal abortion fell 11 points (55 to 44) and support by Republicans decreased 9 points (41 to 32), but Democrats stayed the same at 63 percent.
• The percentage of conservative Republicans who favor legal abortion fell 6 percent (31 to 25), while conservative and moderate Democratic support rose 4 percent (54 to 58) and liberal Democratic support declined 3 percent (81 to 78).
Pew conducted its telephone poll of more than 1,500 adults from March 31 to April 21.
The Gallup Values and Beliefs survey was conducted May 7-10 in phone interviews with more than 1,000 Americans age 18 and older. Gallup's daily tracking poll took place May 12-13.in phone interviews with more than 970 adults.