Americans Agree With Banning "Partial-Birth Abortion"

by Lydia Saad

Bush unlikely to lose much support over the issue

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Yesterday, President Bush signed into law legislation that makes it illegal for doctors to perform an abortion technique known as "partial-birth abortion," except when necessary to save the life of the mother. Gallup polling on the subject since 1995 has consistently shown that a majority of Americans support such a ban. Most recently, in a late-October CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 68% of the public said the procedure should be illegal; only 25% said it should be legal.

Now I would like to ask your opinion about a specific abortion procedure known as "late term" abortion or "partial birth" abortion, which is sometimes performed on women during the last few months of pregnancy. Do you think that the government should make this procedure illegal, or do you think that this procedure should be legal?
Oct 24-26, 2003

Americans' opposition to partial-birth abortion is consistent with their more general reluctance to endorse abortions conducted after the first trimester. Past Gallup polling has shown that Americans accept late-term abortions under certain conditions -- such as when the woman's life is endangered or the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest -- but finds that their fundamental stance on abortion after the third month of pregnancy is generally unfavorable. Only 25% think abortion should generally be legal in the second trimester and only 10% think it should be legal in the last trimester. By contrast, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say it should be legal in the first trimester.

 

Abortion Legality by Trimester
Jan. 10-12, 2003

 

Should be legal

Should be illegal

DEPENDS (vol.)

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

In the first three months of pregnancy

66

29

3

2

In the second three months of pregnancy

25

68

4

3

In the last three months of pregnancy

10

84

4

2

(vol.) Volunteered response



Little Political Backlash Against Bush Over Abortion

The nation's leading "pro-choice" lobbying organization has promised to meet President Bush's signature on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act with fierce resistance in court and in the court of public opinion. Leaders of NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) recently announced that they will launch a television ad campaign that criticizes Bush for, in their words, becoming "the first president ever to criminalize safe medical procedures." In reference to the new law, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Kate Michelman recently said, "George Bush has crossed a line, and we are going to be working hard to make sure every member of America's pro-choice majority understands the significance."

NARAL clearly has its work cut out for it on this issue because even Americans who call themselves pro-choice are more inclined to support than oppose the ban. Half of self-described pro-choice adults in the country believe the government should make partial-birth abortion illegal, while 42% say it should be legal. Naturally, the vast majority of Americans calling themselves pro-life would make the procedure illegal.

Views on Partial-Birth Abortion Based on
"Pro-Choice"/"Pro-Life" Orientation
Oct 24-26, 2003

At the same time, a separate Gallup question suggests that half of Americans may be sympathetic to NARAL's concern that the ban on partial-birth abortion is symptomatic of a broader attack on a woman's right to abortion in the United States. Fifty percent of Americans perceive that Bush's true desire is to ban all abortions in the United States; just over one-third disagree with this, while another 13% are uncertain. This perception is slightly higher among pro-choice Americans than it is among those calling themselves pro-life (57% vs. 46%).

Just your best guess, do you think George W. Bush wants to ban all abortions in the United States, or not?
Oct 24-26, 2003

A follow-up question probes how Bush's stance on abortion would affect Americans' likelihood to vote for him. Although a majority of Americans (58%) say Bush's abortion position has no effect on their support for him, it appears the issue is a slight negative for him. Only 17% of Americans say his position makes them more likely to vote for him, while 23% say it makes them less likely to vote for him.

Among the subgroup of Americans who believe Bush wants to ban all abortions, a third (34%) say Bush's position makes them less likely to vote for him, while just under one-quarter (22%) say it makes them more likely to vote for him. Americans who believe Bush is less adamant on the abortion issue are more evenly divided in how Bush's abortion stance would affect their vote. Thirteen percent of this group says his stance makes them more likely to support him, while 10% say it makes them less likely. But the vast majority of this group says Bush's abortion intentions will not affect their vote.

 

Likelihood of Voting for Bush Based on Perception of Bush's Abortion Position

 

Think Bush would ban all abortions

Think Bush would not ban all abortions

%

%

More likely to vote for Bush

22

13

Less likely to vote for Bush

34

10

No effect

43

76

No opinion

1

1

Total

100%

100%



Putting all of this information together, Gallup finds that 17% of Americans believe Bush wants to ban all abortions and say this makes them less likely to support him for president. However nearly four in five individuals who fall into this group are Democratic in their party affiliation, and are probably inclined not to support Bush anyway. Only a small fraction are Republicans or independents. Similarly, the vast majority of those who think Bush wants to ban all abortions and say this makes them more likely to vote for him (comprising 11% of the public) are Republicans and thus likely Bush supporters.

This calls into question whether Bush would really lose a significant amount of support over his position. It seems more likely that the issue merely reinforces pre-existing attitudes about voting for Bush.

Basic Abortion Views Have Not Changed

The latest poll finds little change in public opinion about the legality of abortion compared with attitudes over the past several years. A majority of Americans hold one of two middle-of-the-road positions on abortion:

  • A large plurality (40%) believes that abortion should be legal, but only in a few circumstances.
  • Another 14% of Americans believe abortion should be legal under most, but not all, circumstances.

About two in five Americans take a more extreme view on abortion:

  • About one-quarter, 26%, say abortion should be legal under all circumstances.
  • A somewhat smaller number, 17%, take the opposite view, saying it should be illegal in all circumstances.

Americans remain closely divided over the labels most frequently used in the abortion debate: 48% consider themselves "pro-choice" and 45% call themselves "pro-life."

With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,006 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Oct. 24-26, 2003. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

36. Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?

 

Legal
under any
circum-
stances

Legal only
under
certain
circum-
stances


Illegal
in all
circum-
stances


No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2003 Oct 24-26

26

55

17

2

2003 May 5-7

23

57

19

1

2003 Jan 10-12

24

57

18

1

2002 May 6-9

25

51

22

2

2002 Mar 22-24

27

53

19

1

2002 Feb 8-10

26

54

18

2

2001 Aug 10-12

26

56

17

1

2001 May 10-14

26

58

15

1

2001 Mar 26-28

26

51

18

5

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

28

51

19

2

2000 Jan 13-16

26

56

15

3

1999 Apr 30-May 2

27

55

16

2

1998 Jan 16-18

23

59

17

1

1997 Nov 6-9

26

55

17

2

1997 Aug 12-13

22

61

15

2

1996 Sep 20-22

24

52

17

7

1996 Jul 25-28

25

58

15

2

1995 Sep 22-24

31

54

12

3

1995 Feb 24-26

33

50

15

2

1994 Sep 6-7

33

52

13

2

1994 Mar 28-30

31

51

15

3

1993 Mar 12-14

32

51

13

4

1992 Jul 23-24 ^

34

48

15

3

1992 Jun 29

34

48

13

5

1992 Jan 16-19

31

53

14

2

1991 Sep 5-8

33

49

14

4

1991 May 30-Jun 2

32

50

17

1

1990 Apr 5-20

31

53

12

4

1989 Jul 6-9

29

51

17

3

1989 Jul 6-7 ^

29

51

17

3

1989 Apr 12-13 ^

27

50

18

5

1988 Sep 25-Oct 1

24

57

17

2

1985 Jan 3-4 ^

21

55

21

3

1983 Jun 24-27

23

58

16

3

1981 May 8-11

23

52

21

4

1980 Jul 11-14

25

53

18

4

1979 Feb 23-26

22

54

19

5

1977 Dec 9-12

22

55

19

4

1975 Apr 4-7

21

54

22

3

^ Gallup/Newsweek



37. (If certain circumstances) Do you think abortion should be legal in most circumstances or only in a few circumstances?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.36-37)

 

Legal
under any
circum-
stances

Legal
under
most
circum-
stances

Legal
only
in a few
circum-
stances

Illegal
in all
circum-
stances


No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Oct 24-26

26

14

40

17

3

2003 May 5-7

23

15

42

19

1

2003 Jan 10-12

24

14

42

18

2

2002 May 6-9

25

12

39

22

2

2002 Mar 22-24

27

12

40

19

2

2001 Aug 10-12

26

12

43

17

2

2001 May 10-14

26

15

41

15

3

2001 Mar 26-28

26

13

38

18

5

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

28

11

38

19

4

2000 Jan 13-16

26

17

39

15

3

1999 Apr 30-May 2

27

12

42

16

3

1998 Jan 16-18

23

16

42

17

2

1997 Nov 6-9

26

15

40

17

2

1997 Aug 12-13

22

12

48

15

3

1996 Jul 25-28

25

13

43

15

4

1995 Sep 22-24

31

14

39

12

4

1995 Feb 24-26

32

9

41

15

3

1994 Sep 6-7

33

13

38

13

3



38. With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?

 



Pro-choice



Pro-life

MIXED/
NEITHER
(vol.)

DON'T KNOW WHAT TERMS MEAN (vol.)



No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Oct 24-26

48

45

3

3

1

2003 May 5-7

48

45

2

4

1

2002 May 6-9

47

46

3

3

1

2001 Aug 10-12

46

46

3

3

2

2001 May 10-14

48

42

4

4

2

2001 Mar 26-28

47

41

4

6

2

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

48

43

2

4

3

1999 Apr 30-May 2

48

42

3

4

3

1998 Jan 16-18

48

45

3

2

2

1997 Nov 6-9

51

40

3

3

3

1997 Aug 12-13

47

44

3

3

3

1996 Jul 25-28

53

36

5

3

3

1995 Sep 22-24

56

33

5

3

3

NOTE: Trends taken only from polls where previous two questions (abortion legal under which circumstances) also asked.

(vol.) Volunteered response



39. Now I would like to ask your opinion about a specific abortion procedure known as "late term" abortion or "partial birth" abortion, which is sometimes performed on women during the last few months of pregnancy. Do you think that -- [ROTATED: the government should make this procedure illegal, (or do you think that) this procedure should be legal]?

 

Illegal

Legal

No opinion

2003 Oct 24-26

68%

25

7



 

40. Just your best guess, do you think George W. Bush wants to ban all abortions in the United States, or not?

 

Yes, does

No, does not

No opinion

2003 Oct 24-26

50%

37

13



41. Does that make you -- [ROTATED: more likely (or) less likely] -- to vote for Bush, or wouldn't that affect your vote?

 

More
likely

Less
likely

No
effect

No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-26

17%

23

58

2



COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.40-41)

 

2003 Oct 24-26

%

Yes, think Bush wants to ban all abortions

50

(More likely to vote)

(11)

(Less likely to vote)

(17)

(No effect/No opinion)

(22)

No, do not think Bush wants to ban all abortions

37

(More likely to vote)

(5)

(Less likely to vote)

(4)

(No effect/No opinion)

(28)

No opinion

13



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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/9658/americans-agree-banning-partialbirth-abortion.aspx
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