The latest Pew poll finds that Americans are now split evenly on their opinion of abortion rights.* In an August survey 45% of respondents said they thought abortion should be illegal in all/most cases, 47% said legal. Last year same time those numbers were 41% and 54%, respectively. Whether these numbers match up to similar polls or not, the fact that the same language was used year-to-year by Pew means the data is worth noting. Yes, it’s a high bar that the respondent has to agree with the all/most cases assertion, but they also had to agree with it last year and the years before that.
As this graph shows, at least according to Pew measures, support for abortion is at its lowest since 1995, opposition near its highest. That people are more entrenched in their position after a hot election year and that conservatives are feeling defensive with a progressive in the White House who’s already appointed a Supreme Court Justice, these numbers are not all that surprising, if discouraging.
The survey also asked how critical people feel abortion is as a political issue. In 2006, 28% of respondents said abortion was a critical issue, in August just about half as many felt that way, 15%. These days #hcr and #climate are more the rage, and there is plenty else to get up in arms about. Still, it seems that conservatives can manage more pots on the stove; they can rally against finance reform, health care reform, Obama, et al and still keep up an effective fight against what might be secondary issues like abortion. Progressives are way too disorganized to handle such maneuvering.
*The addition of “rights” is mine. Pew asked if people are in support of legal abortions. Saying, do you support abortion, versus, do you support the right for a woman to choose is a very different question. As Kevin Drum points out, survey design is notoriously sensitive particularly when it comes to abortion.