The Common Good

Two-Thirds of Americans Say They're Both: "Pro-Life" AND "Pro-Choice"

Photo by Jenny Poole via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4752357353
"It's Complicated." Photo by Jenny Poole via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4752357353

A fascinating new study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that two-thirds of all Americans identify with both the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" labels simultaneously.

The PRRI reports that 7-in-10 Americans say the term “pro-choice” describes them "somewhat" or "very well," and nearly two-thirds simultaneously say the term “pro-life” describes them "somewhat" or "very well."

"This overlapping identity is present in virtually every demographic group," the report said.

In one of the largest public opinion surveys ever conducted on the subject of abortion and religion, PRRI's study, "Millennials, Abortion and Religion Survey," uncovered "large generational differences on two issues that have often been linked in political discourse: abortion and same-sex marriage."

According to the survey, Americans ages 18-29 (a.k.a., "Millennials") strongly support legal access to abortion services in their local communities despite being conflicted about the morality of abortion itself.

"On the issue of abortion, many Americans hold complex views and fluid identities,” said PRRI research director Daniel Cox “For some time now, Americans have held a stable tension between two views: majorities both say that abortion is morally wrong and say that it should be legal in all or most cases. The binary ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ labels don’t reflect this complexity.”

PRRI CEO Dr. Robert P. Jones added, "“Millennials embody the decoupling of the so-called ‘values voter’ agenda. On the issue of abortion, Millennials mirror their parents’ views, with about 6-in-10 saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases. But they are much more supportive than their parents of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. This suggests that we may see these issues moving on separate tracks in the future.”

The PRRI study also found that:

  • A solid majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in all (19 percent) or most (37 percent) cases, compared to 4-in-10 who say it should be illegal in all (14 percent) or most (26 percent) cases. With the exception of white evangelical Protestants, majorities of every major religious group say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
  • Nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent) Americans say that at least some health care professionals in their communities should provide legal abortions.
  • The binary “pro-choice”/“pro-life” labels do not reflect the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion. Seven-in-ten Americans say the term “pro-choice” describes them somewhat or very well, and nearly two-thirds simultaneously say the term “pro-life” describes them somewhat or very well.  This overlapping identity is present in virtually every demographic group.
  • Majorities of Americans simultaneously say abortion is morally wrong (52 percent) and that it should be legal in all or most cases (56 percent).
  • The study identified and tested a number of hypotheses about independent influences on attitudes about the legality of abortion. Among these, having seen MTV’s reality shows about unmarried pregnant teenagers has a positive impact on support for the legality of abortion, while recently seeing an ultrasound has a negative impact on support for the legality of abortion.
  • Among Americans who attend church at least once or twice a month, majorities report hearing their clergy talk about the issue of abortion (54 percent) or homosexuality (51 percent) in church. Catholics are significantly more likely than Protestants to hear about abortion in church.
  • More than 7-in-10 (72 percent) religious Americans believe it is possible to disagree with the teachings of their religion on the issue of abortion and still be considered a person of good standing in their faith. A majority of all major religious groups, including Catholics and white evangelical Protestants agree with this statement.

Read the full report HERE.

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