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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion

The Public Religion Research Institute has issued a new study of public opinion. Some findings:
The binary “pro-choice”/“pro-life” labels do not reflect the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion. Seven-in-ten Americans say the term “pro-choice” describes them somewhat or very well, and nearly two-thirds simultaneously say the term “pro-life” describes them somewhat or very well. This overlapping identity is present in virtually every demographic group.
The decoupling of attitudes on abortion and same-sex marriage suggests that these topics, which served in the past as the heart of the “values” agenda, are no longer necessarily linked in the minds of Americans.
  • Roughly the same percentage of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases in 1999 (57%) as say this today (56%).
  • In contrast, the percentage of Americans who said marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid has grown 18 points over this same period, from 35% in 1999 to 53% in 2011.
Millennials are less supportive of legal abortion than their demographic profile would suggest.
  • Millennials generally have traits associated with higher levels of support for the legality of abortion: they are more educated, more liberal, and more likely to be religiously unaffiliated.
  • Millennials exemplify the decoupling of attitudes on legal abortion and same-sex marriage. They are much more likely than the general public to favor same-sex marriage, but they are not significantly more likely than the general public to support the legality of abortion (60% vs. 56% in the general public).
  • Millennials have largely positive top of mind associations with same-sex marriage but have largely negative top of mind associations with abortion.
  • Millennials are conflicted about the morality of abortion, but most say same gender sexual relationships are morally acceptable. Nearly 6-in-10 (57%) Millennials say sex between two adults of the same gender is morally acceptable, compared to only 46% who say having an abortion is morally acceptable.
  • Unlike all other age groups, Millennials register different levels of support for the availability and legality of abortion. On the one hand, Millennials are strongly committed to the availability of abortion and are significantly more likely than the general public to say that at least some health care professionals in their community should provide legal abortions (68% vs. 58% respectively). But they are no more likely than the general public to say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. These findings suggest general measures of legality may not fully capture support for legal abortion among Millennials.

The Washington Times reports:

Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, said the data found in this and most abortion studies are “profoundly contradictory.” She said that although a majority of people will state abortion is murder, a majority also think it should be legal in some or all cases.

“They are at the same time pro-life and pro-choice … they respect the sanctity of life and the value of choice,” Mrs. Bowman said.

The study highlights this by stating two-thirds of Americans surveyed claimed they were both pro-life and pro-choice.

Melissa Deckman, an associate professor of political science at Washington College, said the pro-life arguments appeared to be winning the political battle, noting that pro-lifers are three times more likely than pro-choice supporters to say that abortion was a critical issue for them.

“They’re highly motivated. They recruit candidates and become legally and politically savvy. They help promote legislation,” Ms. Deckman said.

She also stated the pro-choice movement seems to be on the defensive, and that this would result in access to the procedure slowly disappearing.