Seven in ten Americans don’t think the government should enact any new laws to further restrict abortion, according to a new national poll commissioned by NARAL Pro-Choice America. The reproductive rights group is pointing to the results as evidence that politicians’ efforts to impose more restrictions on the procedure are unpopular, even among voters who may not identify as “pro-choice.”
The poll, which was conducted by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner research firm on behalf of NARAL, offered respondents more detailed options to indicate their opinions on abortion than simply asking them whether they’re “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” Respondents could choose between the following statements: “I believe having an abortion is morally acceptable and should be legal,” “I am personally against abortion for myself and my family, but I don’t believe government should prevent a woman from making that decision for herself,” or “I believe having an abortion is morally wrong and should be illegal.”
About 45 percent of respondents chose the middle category, indicating that they personally oppose abortion but don’t necessarily support enacting further restrictions on it. NARAL says that this is the sector of the population that’s typically underrepresented in polls. GQR pollster Drew Lieberman told Politico that traditional polling often forces people into “artificial categories” because “almost half the population is in the gray area” of believing abortion is morally wrong yet opposing efforts to outlaw it.
Indeed, previous research has found that many Americans have complex attitudes about abortion and actually identify as both “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” Nonetheless, we’ve continued to conduct surveys using outdated questions for decades.
To further test this theory, GQR and NARAL also conducted a second poll specifically in Kansas, a traditionally red state. That poll also found that 70 percent of respondents fall into the first two categories and don’t want to restrict abortion. On top of that, earlier state-level polling focusing on specific pieces of proposed anti-abortion legislation has found similar majorities opposing GOP’s lawmakers’ efforts.
Even as the media continues to cover abortion as a “hot-button issue” that “polarizes voters,” activists working on the ground are attempting to shift the narrative. They advocate for more space to explore individual women’s personal abortion stories, highlight the diversity of experiences related to ending a pregnancy, and focus on the landscapes of people’s individual lives.
NARAL Pro-Choice America, which is involved in efforts to elect candidates who support reproductive rights, says the shift also involves getting more people in Congress who reflect the country’s stance on these issues. Although seven in ten Americans oppose further restrictions on abortion, NARAL says that just four in ten lawmakers in the House of Representatives share that view. Among governors, that drops to only three in ten.