(CNS file photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
By Mark Pattison Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Since the Knights of Columbus began commissioning polls on American attitudes toward abortion in 2008, the results have consistently shown that about 80 percent of Americans favor some kind of restriction on access to abortion.
The consistency is significant, said two officials of the Knights at a Jan. 19 news conference held in Washington to release the 2015 poll’s results.
The seemingly 50-50 split between those who describe themselves as “pro-life” and “pro-choice” — terms used in the poll — are “neither accurate nor helpful, nor does it reflect reality,” said Patrick Kelly, the Knights’ vice president for public policy.
Andrew Walther, the Knights’ vice president for communications and strategic planning, said the results show 81 percent believe “there should be restrictions after the first three months of pregnancy,” adding that “two-thirds of people who self-identify as pro-choice identify with this pro-life position.”
The characterization of a nation split on the issue “simply doesn’t match the data,” he added.
The number of people who identify as pro-life or pro-choice in the poll, conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist University in New York, have fluctuated slightly from year to year, which can show a reaction to news events on the issue. In every year but one, the percentage of Americans who call themselves pro-choice has been higher than Americans who say they are pro-life. The numbers for the 2015 poll, conducted in mid-November, showed a dip in the pro-choice percentage, yet still a majority at 51 percent.
The results to three other key questions showed a majority of those identifying as pro-choice sharing the view of those who consider themselves pro-life.
In addition to restrictions to abortion after the first trimester, 51 percent of pro-choice respondents oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. By comparison, 68 percent of all Americans, and 69 percent of women, hold the same view.
Strong majorities stated their belief that laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child. The percentage breakdown: 77 percent of all Americans, 79 percent of women and 71 percent of pro-choice respondents.
And, while 61 percent overall support laws that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy except to save the life of the mother, the percentage was actually a bit higher for those who say they’re pro-choice, at 62 percent.
Other poll findings: 60 percent said abortion was morally wrong; 55 percent said abortion does more harm than good to a woman; and 51 percent believe health care providers should be able to opt out of providing abortion services if they have moral objections.
The poll was conducted among 1,686 adults ages 18 and up residing in the continental United States. The Marist Poll’s director, Barbara Carvalho, said both landlines and cellphones were reached in the poll, and that respondents were interviewed in either English or Spanish by live interviewers. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
“While it can be a polarizing issue, we have found that it is not a polarized issue,” Carvalho said of abortion. “It can be characterized as a gender issue,” she added, but “what we see here is that it is really a family issue. People have a complex understanding of what the issue is and have a serious take on it.”