Half of Americans consider themselves "pro-choice" on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as "pro-life." This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans' abortion views.
I've written about Gallup's polling on this question in the past, most recently in 2012, when the pro-choice number had dipped to 41%. Why was it down? Well, it was an election year and President Obama -- who was widely expected to win reelection -- was making it abundantly clear that he was an abortion rights supporter.
But why would that cause pro-choice sentiment to slip? I like to quote this L.A. Times article from 2000 -- another moment when the "pro-choice" number was low:
Typically when abortion rights are threatened, support for legal abortion rises, according to polling experts.So why is the pro-choice number going up now, even with Obama in the White House? I assume it's because of the large number of Republican-controlled state governments we have now and their relentless attempts to restrict abortion in the states. Here's a graphic from the Guttmacher Institute:
In the last decade, for example, previous polls show support for Roe peaking at 56% around 1991, when the decision was under attack across the country....
In 1992, the Supreme Court issued a decision upholding Roe, with some modifications. The same year, [Bill] Clinton, an abortion rights supporter, was elected president. Both events appeared to reassure people there would be no dramatic changes in abortion policy. Subsequently, support for Roe began to decline.
In a 1996 poll, 46% of respondents endorsed Roe vs. Wade. By 1999, support had slipped slightly to 43%....
There's a lot of orange on that most recent map -- and the state governments that are "extremely hostile" to abortion rights include high-population Texas, Florida, and Ohio. These days, a hell of a lot of Americans live in a state where abortion is under concerted attack.
A lot of Americans have mixed feelings about abortion -- until the government starts saying that they can't get one. Maybe soon they'll start actually voting to defend abortion rights.