The progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org claimed Saturday that seven in 10 Americans are pro-choice.
“#7in10 Americans are #prochoice, but anti-choice politicians still prioritize banning abortion,” tweeted MoveOn.org.
Polls have consistently shown that the public is more evenly split on the issue of abortion than MoveOn.org claims.
Hundreds of polls have been conducted over the years in an attempt to gauge how Americans view abortion. Many measure support based on bellwethers like Roe v. Wade or the proposed 20-week abortion ban, while others ask more broadly whether Americans consider abortion moral or immoral.
Yet, surprisingly few polls ask the most direct question possible – do you identify as pro-life or pro-choice?
For over 20 years, Gallup has been asking that very question, finding that while slightly more Americans identify as pro-choice (49 percent versus 46 percent who consider themselves pro-life), the number is not as high as MoveOn.org claims.
That doesn’t mean there are zero polls that suggest a high percentage of pro-choice Americans.
The pro-abortion rights group NARAL commissioned a study in 2014 that showed 69 percent of Americans support pro-choice positions. And when a HuffPost/YouGov poll asked Americans whether decisions on abortion “should be made by a woman and her doctor,” 63 percent said yes.
But a lot comes down to the wording of these questions. For example, the same HuffPost poll found that only 46 percent of Americans believe abortion should always be legal or legal with some restrictions, and just 36 percent said that abortion was either morally acceptable or not a moral issue.
Similarly, a Quinnipiac poll found that 70 percent of Americans agree with the ruling in Roe v. Wade, but a CBS News poll taken in February found that only 54 percent of Americans wanted the next Supreme Court justice to uphold the ruling.
Polls that show overwhelming support for pro-choice views are few and far between, and the preponderance of polling finds less support than MoveOn.org claims.
Over two decades of polling by the Pew Research Center shows that somewhat more than half of Americans support abortion being legal in all or most cases (57 percent in the latest poll). Quinnipiac University has found similar findings since it started asking the question in 2004 (although there has been a recent uptick to 62 percent).
Polls from Gallup also show that views are more evenly divided, but in the opposite direction. Every poll taken since 1994 found that somewhat more than half of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all or most situations (54 percent in the most recent poll).
Gallup has also found for over a decade that roughly half of Americans view abortion as morally wrong.
“Stability remains the name of the game in U.S. abortion attitudes,” writes Gallup News. And by most measures, those attitudes appear to be less supportive of pro-choice views than MoveOn.org claims.
MoveOn.org did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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