NRL News

Gallup’s “Common Ground,” While Useful, Obscures that Public Closer to Pro-Life Side

by | Aug 11, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Lydia Saad

Yesterday we made an opening run at the latest Gallup numbers. After reading Lydia Saad’s analysis [“Plenty of Common Ground Found in Abortion Debate: ‘Pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ Americans agree on 9 of 17 policies tested”] and looking at the numbers themselves, there are lots of little items that you’d miss on even a fairly close first reading.

For example, there was a lot of to-do earlier this year when Gallup reported that 49% of Americans self-identified as “pro-choice” to 45% pro-life. A year before it had been 47% self-identifying as pro-life to 45% pro-choice.

Well if you read Gallup from Monday you see, lo and behold, it’s now tied at 47% as of July 15-17. The percentages will move around, but the point obviously is that the numbers are for all practical purposes tied. Once upon a time the “pro-choice” label was overwhelmingly favored.

Having said that, as we noted on Tuesday, there is agreement among a majority of self–identified pro-lifers and “pro-choicers” over the traditional “tough” cases: life, physical health, or in cases of rape and incest. It is important to know that most likely people think of “physical health” as very serious, because the word ‘endangered’ follows.

Likewise, both groups agree that women need to be informed and that there ought to be a 24-hour waiting period—important since the Abortion Movement opposes both with every fiber in its collective body—and in parental consent.

In addition self-identified pro-lifers and pro-choicers opposed third trimester abortion, second-trimester abortion, and partial-birth abortion. [I wish I had numbers going back far enough to know if a majority of self-identified pro-choicers ever opposed second-trimester abortions.]

Saad says that the most “contentious” area is abortion for financial reasons –see below–followed by abortion in cases where the baby is suspected to have mental or physical impairment or when the mother’s mental health “is at stake.”

What else can we derive from a closer reading? It is true that the biggest gap between self-identified pro-lifers and pro-choicers is over support for abortion when woman or family “can’t afford to raise the child”—64% to 9%=a difference of 55%.

But lost in the “common ground” discussion is that only 37% of the public agrees it should be legal to abort when a woman can’t afford to raise the child as opposed to 62% who say it should be illegal to abort for these reasons.

Another illuminating difference is over whether it’s okay to abort “when there is evidence that the baby may be mentally impaired.” There 76% of pro-abortionists say yes to only 26% of pro-lifers–a difference of 50%.

However, more to the point, the public is closely divided: 50% say it should be legal, versus 46% illegal. And bear in mind making something “illegal” always tilts the response in a negative direction.

As a reminder, in May a total of 61% of respondents told Gallup that abortion should either be legal in only a few circumstances (39%) or illegal in all circumstances (22%). That compares with a total of 37% who said either that abortion should be legal in all circumstances (27%), or under most circumstances (10%).

And just last month Gallup released a poll showing majority support for five of seven pieces of protective legislation–informed consent, parental consent, a 24-hour waiting period, ultrasound, and a ban on partial-birth abortion. In the case of four of the laws the majorities were overwhelming. The wording of a sixth law probably explains why there was not majority support. (See

While it is good, very good, that even self-identified pro-choicers can see the light on various proposals, we should not let lost the truth that the public is closer to us on a whole range of issues than to pro-abortionists.

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Categories: Pro-Lifers