Several new state laws regulating the termination of pregnancy seem to have had an effect on Americans’ views on abortion, shifting opinion more toward pro-life stances.
A new Marist poll has found a significant shift in opinion since a similar survey was conducted, only one month before.
The survey, taken Feb.12-17 in the wake of efforts in several states to legalize abortion up until birth, showed significant shifts led by Democrats and those under 45 years old.
“Current proposals that promote late-term abortion have reset the landscape and language on abortion in a pronounced – and very measurable – way,” said Barbara Carvalho, director of The Marist Poll.
Americans are now as likely to identify as pro-life (47 percent) as pro-choice (47 percent). Just last month, a similar survey conducted by Marist found Americans more likely to identify as pro-choice than as pro-life by 17 percentage points (55 to 38 percent). Democrats moved in their pro-life identity from 20 percent to 34 percent.
Among Democrats, the gap between pro-life and pro-choice identifiers was cut in half from 55 percent to 27 percent. The number of Democrats now identifying as pro-life is 34 percent, up from 20 percent last month, while the number identifying as pro-choice fell from 75 percent to 61 percent.
Younger Americans also moved dramatically, now dividing 47 percent pro-life to 48 percent pro-choice. One month ago, the gap was almost 40 percentage points with only 28 percent identifying as pro-life and 65 percent identifying as pro-choice.
At the same time, the survey found that opposition to late-term abortions is overwhelming. By about three to one (71 percent to 25 percent), Americans say abortion should be generally illegal during the third trimester. This majority includes 60 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents and 85 percent of Republicans.
By an even wider margin (71 percent to 18 percent), Americans strongly oppose late-term abortion after 20 weeks. This 71 percent includes two-thirds (66 percent) who say abortion should be banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy except to save the life of the mother, and an additional five percent think abortion should be outlawed completely. Only 18 percent think abortion should be allowed at any time up until birth. Those opposing abortion after 20 weeks, or overall, include: 59 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents and 82 percent of Republicans.
In addition, the poll found that 80 percent of Americans would like abortion limited to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy—an increase of five points since just last month. This includes 65 percent of those who identified as pro-choice, as well as strong majorities of Democrats (64 percent), Republicans (92 percent) and independents (83 percent).
The proportion overall has shown a consensus over time on the issue with three-quarters to eight-in-10 Americans supportive of restrictions on abortion. The 80 percent figure is, nevertheless, a significant increase since January – a noteworthy change in what has been a very stable measure.
“Arguments in favor of late-term abortion are simply not convincing the American people,” said Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, the organization that sponsored the survey, both in January and February. “If anything, since these proposals have been unveiled, people are moving noticeably in the pro-life direction. It is now clear that these radical policies are being pursued despite the opposition of the majority of Americans of both parties.”
A flurry of state-level legislative activity in January included New York’s passage of a Reproductive Health Act, which allows all abortion up to 24 weeks and increases access after that point. Gov. Andrew Cuomo came under fire not only for his promotion of the bill but also his celebration of its passage into law by ordering New York City’s Freedom Tower to be lit up in pink. Meanwhile, a state legislator in Virginia elicited howls of protest when she affirmed during a hearing that a bill she was sponsoring would allow abortion even during labor.