And when Pew specifically asked respondents whether it should be more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, just 41 percent said yes. Still, two thirds said they want to reduce the number of abortions. Those findings could translate into broad support for Obama's approach to the issue, marrying support for abortion rights with a pledge to "reduce the need for abortion."
Abortion rights supporters, meanwhile, are much less concerned about the issue than they were under George W. Bush. A third of liberal Democrats cited abortion as a critical issue in 2006, while just 8 percent do now, according to Pew. With an ally in the White House, Pew's Smith says abortion rights supporters are "more relaxed."
That's bad news for abortion rights groups, who are now fighting to keep abortion coverage in the proposed healthcare reform plans. In a sign that the president may be willing to compromise on the issue, he recently called Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, who's leading an effort among antiabortion Democrats to strengthen the ban on government-funded abortion in healthcare reform. Last week, Stupak finally secured a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after months of trying. It looks as if the Democratic Party may be shifting on abortion, too.