Half of Pro-Choice Americans Favor Restrictions on Abortion, Poll Finds
Pro-choice activists photo-bomb pro-life activists outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 18, 2019, during the annual March for Life marking the anniversary of the court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion in most cases. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Nearly half of self-described pro-choice Americans actually support “significant restrictions” on abortion, a new poll finds.
Marist Poll’s annual survey on abortion, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, found that 40% of those surveyed identified as pro-life and 55% as pro-choice, with 5% undecided.
But when the question was rephrased to ask whether those surveyed would support “significant restrictions” on abortion, 7 in 10 responded that they would. This included 47% of pro-choicers.
“A notable proportion (41%) of those who identify as pro-choice are more likely to vote for candidates who support restrictions, as are more than 9 in 10 who identify as pro-life (96%),” the survey summary says.
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“What is clear is that when someone says they’re pro-life, they are overwhelmingly likely to support restrictive legislation—but the term ‘choice’ is just too broad,” Andrew Walther, vice president of communications and strategic planning at the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic service organization, said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters.
“The problem with reporting along pro-life and pro-choice lines is it forces the issue into a false binary,” Walther said.
Marist Poll also found that a majority are pro-life on specific issues, with 60% opposed to taxpayer funding of abortion, 76% opposed to funding abortion in other countries, and 65% opposed to the legal aborting of children with Down syndrome.
Each of these data points includes a large percentage of adults who generally identify as pro-choice, the pollster said.
The poll found that nearly 40% of pro-choice respondents said they believe that the states should decide restrictions on abortion, compared with 57% of pro-life respondents.
As usual, the findings were released days before the annual March for Life, held by pro-life activists to protest the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade to legalize abortion on demand.
“The fact that such large numbers of Americans who identify as pro-choice nevertheless support restrictions and the revisiting of Roe v. Wade shows how misleading it is to conflate the term ‘pro-choice’ with support for radically pro-abortion position that calls for unrestricted abortion,” Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson said in a press release.
Differing understandings of the meaning of “choice” helps explain the amount of support for abortion restrictions from pro-choice Americans, Barbara Carvalho, director of Marist Poll, said during the conference call.
“Polling forces people into one of two sides,” Carvalho said. “We have actually presented people [with whom] we are speaking with very specific issues, so we are able to discern what they mean when they say ‘pro-choice.’”
“It is very hard to overstate the nuance in the pro-choice label, to the extent that it has almost lost its meaning,” Walther of the Knights of Columbus said. “Pro-choice runs the gamut from abortion on demand to legal but very restrictive.”
The poll, conducted through interviews with 1,237 adults, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7%.