The trend in American sentiment toward abortion has changed substantially over the last several decades. In 1995, Gallup reported that 56 percent of Americans defined themselves as “pro-choice” while only 33 percent of Americans defined themselves as “pro-life.” This narrowed so that by 2002 these two self-defined groups were roughly equal in number. Since then, although the polling data is not a straight line, the percentage of Americans who are “pro-choice” has now dropped to a Gallup low of 41 percent while the percentage of Americans who are “pro-life” is 50 percent. Although the trends have been generally the same regardless of partisan affiliation, Republicans are vastly more inclined to be pro-life at 72 percent than Independents at 47 percent or Democrats at 34 percent.
A clear plurality of Americans believe that abortion is immoral compared with those who believe abortion is moral (51 percent to 38 percent in the latest poll), and at no time in the last dozen years reported in the poll have fewer Americans thought abortion was immoral than those who felt abortion was moral. The findings of Gallup correspond generally with Rasmussen, although the latter poll reported in April 2012, for the first time, that only 47 percent of Americans believe that abortion is wrong most of the time. Last August Rasmussen reported that 55 percent of Americans believed that abortion was wrong most of the time.
The confusing wording of polling questions leads to potentially misleading responses to questions. When Americans are asked, for example, whether they favor overturning Roe v. Wade, they generally oppose such a move. That Supreme Court decision, however, was not strictly about abortion but rather about states’ rights.