By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
A new Gallup Poll finds that most Americans are identifying themselves as "pro-life" for the first time since the firm starting asking the question in 1995. Fifty-one percent of Americans now call themselves "pro-life" on abortion, compared with 42 percent who consider themselves "pro-choice."
That's a major change from a year ago, when 50 percent of Americans called themselves pro-choice and 44 percent said they were pro-life.
This graph illustrates the dramatic shift:
The poll finds that while support is about even for the extreme abortion positions—23 percent of Americans believe abortion should always be illegal, and 23 percent say it should always be legal—most take a more nuanced stance. Fifty-three percent say abortion should be legal in certain circumstances.
Drilling down further, however, Gallup finds that 60 percent think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances or legal in only a few circumstances. Just 37 percent want abortion legal in all or most circumstances.
What explains the spike in the number of pro-life Americans? Gallup says it's a reaction to the Obama era:
With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation's policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans—and, in particular, Republicans—seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position. However, the retreat is evident among political moderates as well as conservatives.
It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be "pro-choice" slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.
The clear shift in public opinion puts more pressure on President Obama to make good on abortion reduction—and will make it more difficult to rescind Bush-ordered "conscience" protections for healthcare workers.