Only 41% of Your U.S. Peers are Pro-Choice

I hope you weren’t having a good day, because here’s some upsetting news: the number of pro-choice Americans is down to 41%. Let’s think about that. Forty-one percent. Less than half. Not the majority.

Four out of ten. If I put you in a room of ten people, only four of them would be pro-choice.Photo via

A Gallup poll conducted earlier this month revealed that only 41% of Americans view themselves as pro-choice, down from a still-disconcertingly-low 47% at this time last year. Compare this to the 50% (that’s half, y’all) of Americans who view themselves as pro-life. Now, as one might expect, Republicans who identify as pro-life are on the rise. That’s normal. Independents went up 6% from last year to 47%, and given that many Tea Party-types identify as independent, I’m not really shocked by those data, either. But here’s your slap in the face for the day: pro-life Democrats increased by 7% since last year, from 27% to 34%. Yes, Democrats. The ones we thought we could count on to at least identify as pro-choice, if not vote that way.

There is an upside to this, lest you be tempted to rage at your computer screen (though honestly, nothing stops me from engaging in at least an hour of computer rage-time a week). 77% of Americans still favor keeping abortion legal. That should be enough to keep your screen safe from bludgeoning, but don’t get too comfortable. Only 25% believe that abortion ought to be legal under all circumstances. 52% believe it should be legal only under certain circumstances. I can’t help but notice that those “special circumstances” aren’t defined, making me wonder how many of those 52% are proponents of the ever-popular “rape and incest” clause and don’t give a damn about anyone else. And of course, 20% believe it should be illegal under all circumstances. Additionally, 51% of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong, while 38% believe that it is morally acceptable.

Academic that I am, I feel obligated to turn a critical eye to this study. I realize that Gallup does many of the “important” polls and is thus taken seriously. But I also realize that a sample size of 1,024 adults does not a generalizable outcome make. It just isn’t a big number when you compare it to 300,000 million people who live in this country. So with that in mind, I would take this with a little dose of cynicism. While gender, age, race, Hispanic/non-Hispanic ethnicity, education level, and area were controlled for, some things weren’t. All participants had either a cell phone or land line to conduct the study on, and all answers were the result of a phone-call survey. Do you answer the phone for surveys? I don’t, and neither does anyone I know. And then there’s that whole class-issue of having a phone in the first place. So what needs to be considered here is that there are a lot of people who probably weren’t well-represented in this study, and the fact that their viewpoints are absent must be considered.

And then there’s that issue of defining the whole pro-life and pro-choice concepts. I know many who swear that they’re pro-life. Turns out that once I talk to them, I discover that they are only personally pro-life, which is great for them, but respect other women’s rights when it comes to reproductive freedom. It’s just the nature of the wording and of the rhetoric; pro-choice is such a loaded term that people might fear using it for risk of being branded “babykillers.” Since conservatives turn any woman who respects the right to choose into a murdering monstresses who hates babies and family and God and probably puppies, it’s easy to understand why some might want to avoid that label. As for the legislation, I think a lot of it is governed by the kind of thinking that leads us to believe that something bad won’t ever happen to us, that we won’t ever have an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. But that isn’t how life goes. We have to make difficult decisions every now and then, and those decisions must be our own. That’s why I’m so concerned about this falling number. If I ever have to make the decision of whether or not I wish to keep a pregnancy, I want to be the one to make that choice, and I don’t want my fellow citizens to have a hand in it, because if they do…well, let’s just say that things are looking progressively worse.

By Elfity

Elfity, so named for her tendency to be a bit uppity and her elf-like appearance, is a graduate student and professional Scary Feminist of Rage. She has a propensity for social justice, cheese, and Doctor Who. Favorite activities include making strange noises, napping with puppies and/or kitties, and engaging in political and philosophical debates.

5 replies on “Only 41% of Your U.S. Peers are Pro-Choice”

I’m not a huge fan of surveys. They tell us something but they never tell us the whole story. I’m reminded of a PMag article not long ago of a Christian who said she supported abortion not because she felt it was good but because she felt the alternative was worse. I think there are a lot of people who feel that way and so terms like “pro-choice” and “pro-life” are ill-fitting. Why is it one camp or the other? And “under certain circumstances” can mean so much; it is a clause that swings both ways. It might mean “only in cases or rape or incest”, “only if the baby’s life will be short and painful”, “only if the mother has receive counselling,” or “only if it is within the first trimester.” It doesn’t surprise me that the extremes of either view on the spectrum are small– 20% illegal in all situation and 25% legal in all situations. The 52% in the middle are the most concerning and the portion where more information is needed. Moral or immoral is an interesting question but it doesn’t tell us much as it’s possible to do an immoral thing for a moral reason. And who’s morals are the standard by which we should measure? Benny Hinn’s or Ru Paul’s?

You also make a great point about the sampling of the poll. I’d love to see these statistics broken up into income brackets as it might say something about the resources, the healthcare, the education, and the financial implications behind women’s choices. Additionally, I’d like to see what their views are on birth control when evaluated next to abortion (as birth control is strangely becoming an election issue). I want to know if people see the connection of more birth control = less abortions.

“ And who’s morals are the standard by which we should measure? Benny Hinn’s or Ru Paul’s?”

I vote RuPaul, just because the world needs more fabulous; beauty is good for the world. And RuPaul’s values line up more with Jesus’ than any of the popular preachers or politicians. And, well, abortion is a medical procedure that any woman may need during her lifetime; I am not comfortable denying that right regardless of how I’d “interpret Scripture”.

I’m not sure you got what I intended. I’m only meaning that there is no objective rule by which to measure when we ask, “Is X moral?” I only chose to use Benny Hinn and RuPaul as examples because I see them as opposites on the spectrum and want to illustrate that the question is flawed, not because I am picking sides. It’s not fair for people in one camp to call people in the other immoral or of low-moral because their views are different. Likewise, it’s unfair to group all people under one umbrella-question as if they all operate under the same moral code and then evaluate them against each other.

I’m not against you, I’m with you in that abortion should be legal, but I think that if we aren’t careful, we’ll be fooled into believing the results of this survey are black and white. I think there are still many shades of grey in the Great Debate. Finding flaws in the questions asked gives me hope.

I also wish Gallup had included statistics on how many men and women were surveyed. I think this would have been a useful piece of information. Just another reason why the survey is incomplete.

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