In just one month, Americans have made a sudden and dramatic shift away from the pro-choice position and toward a pro-life stance, according to a new Marist opinion poll.
The shift was led by Democrats and those under 45-years old, according to a survey taken between February 12-17 in the wake of efforts in several states to legalize abortion up until birth.
“Current proposals that promote late-term abortion have reset the landscape and language on abortion in a pronounced – and very measurable – way,” said Barbara Carvalho, director of The Marist Poll.
In a substantial, double-digit shift, according to the poll, Americans are now as likely to identify as pro-life (47 percent) as pro-choice (47 percent). Just last month, a similar survey conducted by The Marist Poll found Americans more likely to identify as pro-choice than as pro-life by 17 percentage points (55 to 38 percent). Democrats moved in their pro-life identity from 20 percent to 34 percent.
Among Democrats, the gap between pro-life and pro-choice identifiers was cut in half from 55 percent to 27 percent. The number of Democrats now identifying as pro-life is 34 percent, up from 20 percent last month, while the number identifying as pro-choice fell from 75 percent to 61 percent. Younger Americans also moved dramatically, now dividing 47 percent pro-life to 48 percent pro-choice. One month ago, the gap was almost 40 percentage points with only 28 percent identifying as pro-life and 65 percent identifying as pro-choice.
“The recent legal changes to late-term abortion and the debate which followed have not gone unnoticed by the general public,” said Carvalho. “In just one month, there has been a significant increase in the proportion of Americans who see themselves as pro-life and an equally notable decline in those who describe themselves as pro-choice.”
This is the first time since 2009 that as many or more Americans have identified as pro-life as have identified as pro-choice. More than a third of Democrats (34 percent) as well as two-thirds of Republicans (67 percent) identify as pro-life. Independents divide (46 percent pro-life, 48 percent pro-choice).
At the same time, the survey found that opposition to late-term abortions is overwhelming. By about three to one (71 percent to 25 percent), Americans say abortion should be generally illegal during the third trimester. This majority includes 60 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents and 85 percent of Republicans.
By an even wider margin (71 percent to 18 percent), Americans strongly oppose late-term abortion after 20 weeks. This 71 percent includes two-thirds (66 percent) who say abortion should be banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy except to save the life of the mother, and an additional five percent think abortion should be outlawed completely. Only 18 percent think abortion should be allowed at any time up until birth. Those opposing abortion after 20 weeks, or overall, include: 59 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents and 82 percent of Republicans.
In addition, the poll found that 80 percent of Americans would like abortion limited to – at most – the first three months of pregnancy – an increase of five points since just last month. This includes 65 percent of those who identified as pro-choice, as well as strong majorities of Democrats (64 percent), Republicans (92 percent) and independents (83 percent).
The proportion overall has shown a consensus over time on the issue with three-quarters to eight-in-10 Americans supportive of restrictions on abortion. The 80 percent figure is, nevertheless, a significant increase since January – a noteworthy change in what has been a very stable measure.