We may think of abortion as one of our perennial “controversial” issues, but perhaps it’s not so controversial at all. This week the Supreme Court’s Texas decision showed us even a divided bench, short a person, can still reaffirm that a woman’s basic right to choose an abortion should be protected.
The polling shows America has come to the same conclusion as well. Pew’s tracking shows a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases — a trend that’s been fairly stable over the last twenty years.
(Some pollsters, along with the pro-abortion rights group NARAL,have argued that a three-point question might better capture public opinion, by giving respondents an option to say they find abortion morally unacceptable, but still think it should remain legal. In this formulation, over two-thirds say abortion should be legal. But even without this methodological shift, the results are clear and consistent.)
Support for abortion also transcends demographics. Majorities of men, women, Catholics, Black Protestants, independents, and moderate/liberal Republicans all support legal abortion in all or most cases. In fact, Pew shows opposition to abortion driven chiefly by White Evangelicals and conservative Republicans. But even this so-called opposition is not so strongly opposed. Over a quarter of these two groups support abortion rights.
The GOP may not only be losing swing voters with their hard-line abortion talk, but their own base. Pew shows, compared to Democrats, Republican voters typically agree more strongly with their own party’s platform on a variety of issues. Not so on abortion. Only 39% of Republicans say they “agree strongly” with their part on the issue, compared to 48% of Democrats who say the same. And abortion seems likely to be a bigger vote driver on the left. Gallup shows “social issues such as gay marriage and abortion” will be a more important priority in 2016 among Democrats than among Republicans. (Although it’s important to note it’s not a top priority for either party’s voters.)
But if a Republican voter wanted to make abortion his or her priority, their party’s standard-bearer is making it more difficult, since even a close reading of his statements confuses. According to Gallup, almost two-thirds of pro-life voters are unsure about Trump’s views on abortion, and the remainder divide equally between agreeing and disagreeing with him. There is far less confusion about Hillary Clinton’s views–either among pro-life or pro-choice voters.
To the extent to which abortion is important in this election, it’s poised to help Democrats. There is greater consensus on the left, and Republican nominee is, at best, squishy on the issue. So instead of viewing this issue as controversial, better to take a cue from the Supreme Court. On a woman’s right to choose an abortion, America is united. Mostly.
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