On Solid Ground: Over 35 Years, Abortion Polls Show Remarkable Consistency

By Belden, Nancy | Conscience, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

On Solid Ground: Over 35 Years, Abortion Polls Show Remarkable Consistency


Belden, Nancy, Conscience


AMERICANS HAVE ACTIVELY DEBATED THE abortion issue since the 1973 US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade declared that the right to privacy extends to a woman's right to decide whether to have an abortion.

At every turn, opponents and advocates of abortion rights have fought on the federal and state levels about restrictions to limit access to abortion--from poster-wielding antiabortion activists blocking clinic access to legislators writing laws requiring parental consent for teens seeking an abortion and outlawing certain medical procedures, among many other examples. Defenders of abortion rights have won some and lost some-including important Supreme Court decisions. For example, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court struck down a Pennsylvania law that required notification of the husband prior to an abortion but left in place requirements for parental consent, informed consent, and a 24-hour waiting period. More recently in 2007, in Gonzalez v. Carhart, the justices moved in a more conservative direction, leaving in place a federal ban on a particular abortion procedure without allowing for an exception for women's health--even though in 2000 a more moderate Supreme Court had struck down a similar law.

Through the last 35 years, however, the support for legal abortion among the American public has not deteriorated. In 1973 after the Roe v. Wade decision, Louis Harris & Associates found 52 percent favored "the US Supreme Court decision making abortion up to three months of pregnancy legal" and 41 percent opposed it. Support and opposition has moved up and down marginally in Harris polling, dipping to 47 percent in favor and 44 percent opposed in 1974 and rising to 60 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed in 1979, before settling back down to 56 percent in favor/40 percent opposed in 2007--virtually the same as in 1973.

Other surveys lead to the same conclusion. Our firm has asked whether Americans agreed or disagreed that "it should be legal for a woman to have an abortion" four times since 1998--always finding six in ten agreeing (four in ten strongly) and a third disagreeing (a quarter strongly). See Table Two.

In another example, polling for ABC News and the Washington Post has shown virtually no change in the aggregate levels of support and opposition to abortion in the last 10 years among registered voters. In 1996, 24 percent of voters said they thought abortion should be legal in all cases and 34 percent legal in most cases, 25 percent illegal in most, and 14 percent illegal in all. In 2008, the ABC/Washington Post poll obtained virtually the same result: 21 percent legal in all cases, 36 percent legal in most, 25 percent illegal in most, and 15 percent illegal in all.

Interestingly, as Table Three shows, the numbers move around if one looks at polls from month to month within a given year--and this often excites advocates and opponents. However, on average, the numbers reflect a remarkably consistent outcome: about two in ten voters in the most liberal position, more than a third in the "legal in most" category, a quarter in "illegal in most," and only 15 percent or so rejecting abortion altogether.

There are several ways to look at these figures that have long been part of the discussions about how Americans view abortion rights. One is that fewer Americans, or voters in the case of ABC/Washington Post poll in Table Three, place themselves in the extreme positions (all cases legal or illegal) than in the middle "legal in most cases" position. Another way to look at the results is that more than half support a fairly liberal position (legal in all or most cases).

Further evidence of the static state of attitudes on abortion comes from the fact that when survey questions asking about different aspects of the issue are included in polls repeatedly, they too obtain similar results year to year. The CBS News/New York Times poll has asked the general public: "Which comes closest to your view?

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

On Solid Ground: Over 35 Years, Abortion Polls Show Remarkable Consistency
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.