Friday, May 15, 2009


By now you've probably seen it:

A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.

And not only have the pro-choice numbers dropped, they've plummeted -- suddenly:

What's going on? Well, read the analysis in this June 2000 L.A. Times article, which was reporting on a similar perceived drop in support for abortion rights:

Typically when abortion rights are threatened, support for legal abortion rises, according to polling experts.

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. Most states had pushed measures through their legislatures that either put strict limits on abortion or even banned it altogether.

In 1992, the Supreme Court issued a decision upholding Roe, with some modifications. The same year, 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%, the same level as in the current poll.

Gee, what just happened last year? We kicked out an anti-abortion GOP president and elected a pro-choice Democrat. Suddenly the wafflers are feeling squeamish about abortion again.

If you don't believe that perceived political control of the country can have that kind of effect on responses to this kind of question, look at the graph for the Bush years.

I strongly suspect that the next time abortion rights are genuinely threatened, the wafflers will be back in the pro-choice column.

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