Shock: poll shows most Catholics believe abortion should be legal

From PRRI research comes these results from a wide-ranging survey about health care:

A majority (54%) of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while about four in ten (43%) say it should be illegal in all or most cases. There has been little change in public views on abortion legality over the last decade. In 2008, 57% of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 36% said it should be illegal in all or most cases.

There are particularly notable divisions on the legality of abortion by religious affiliation. With the exception of white evangelical Protestants majorities of every other major religious group believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. About one-third (32%) of white evangelical Protestants say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to about two-thirds (66%) who believe that it should be illegal in most or all cases; notably, even among white evangelical Protestants, only 19% say abortion should be illegal in all cases. In contrast, majorities of Catholics (52%), white mainline Protestants (55%), and black Protestants (60%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do nearly three-quarters (74%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans.

While a majority of Democrats (71%) and political independents (56%) believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, only about one in three (34%) Republicans say the same. More than six in ten Republicans say that abortion should be illegal in most (42%) or all (20%) cases. While there are no major gender differences between Democrats and political independents, Republican women (39%) are more likely to believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases than Republican men (30%).

And then there’s this:

While a majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in at least most cases, a majority (54%) also agree that “abortion goes against my personal beliefs.” More than four in ten (44%) Americans disagree, saying abortion does not conflict with their personal beliefs.

There is a complex relationship between attitudes about the legality of abortion and personal beliefs about abortion. More than one-third (34%) of Americans who say abortion is at odds with their personal beliefs nonetheless believe it should be legal in most or all cases. Notably, only 19% of those who are personally opposed to abortion say it should be illegal in all cases.

Young people are far less likely than older Americans to say abortion is at odds with their personal beliefs. Fewer than half (44%) of young people say abortion goes against their personal beliefs, compared to 60% of seniors.

The interplay between personal beliefs and support for the legality of abortion remains complex among religious groups. On the one hand, majorities of white evangelical Protestants (78%), Catholics (59%), black Protestants (56%), and white mainline Protestants (54%) say abortion goes against their personal beliefs. By contrast, only 29% of religiously unaffiliated Americans say abortion goes against their personal beliefs, and nearly seven in ten (69%) say it does not.

But personal beliefs about abortion, even among religious groups, do not directly correspond with support for the legality of abortion. While a majority of religious groups say abortion goes against their personal beliefs, majorities of nearly every major religious group nonetheless support the legality of abortion in all or most cases. White evangelical Protestants are the only major religious group in which a majority opposes the legality of abortion in all or most cases.

From the press release: 

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of young people, compared to 51 percent of seniors, agree that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

Nearly seven in ten (69 percent) young people, compared to 46 percent of seniors, agree that at least some health care professionals in their community should provide legal abortions.

“The relative stability of attitudes in the general public towards the legality and availability of abortion over the past few years has masked a growing polarization of opinion between younger and older Americans,” said PRRI CEO Dr. Robert P. Jones. “As this younger generation continues to flex its political muscles—as we saw in the response to the Parkland shooting—they could also reshape the national conversation on women’s health issues.”

There’s much more here to consume. Read it all. 

Meantime, the methodology: 

The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI and made possible by a generous grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and additional support from an anonymous donor. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between March 14, 2018 and March 25, 2018 by professional interviewers under the direction of SSRS. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 2,020 adults 18 years of age or older living in the United States (1,210 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.6 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The design effect for the survey is 1.4.


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