According to Gallup, the number of Americans who identify as "pro-choice" has fallen to a record low of 41%, down from 47% last July. The 50% of Americans who regard themselves as "pro-life" is just one percent short of the highest figure polled. However, the number of Americans confused about what these labels mean is at an all-time high…
Gallup's longest-running measure of abortion views, established in 1975, asks Americans if abortion should be legal in all circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances. Since 2001, at least half of Americans have consistently chosen the middle position, saying abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, and the 52% saying this today is similar to the 50% in May 2011. The 25% currently wanting abortion to be legal in all cases and the 20% in favor of making it illegal in all cases are also similar to last year's findings.
As always, there's a large partisan divide on the self-identification question. Democrats remain pro-choice by a 58 to 34% margin, while Republicans are in favor of terminating first-term Democratic presidencies, but little else.
Yet the confusion crosses party lines. Comparing the percentage of Americans who identify as pro-choice to the number of Americans who support legal access to abortion under at least some circumstances yields the impression that Americans have reinterpreted the question, "With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?" as asking "Do you think abortion is icky?" rather than "Do you think women should have the legal option to terminate a pregnancy?"Americans are semantically pro-life but operationally pro- whatever doesn't require them to buy diapers and start a 529 plan.
Perhaps this divide can be bridged by clever framing: Since fetuses aren't U.S. citizens and Republicans aren't keen on granting non-citizen "illegals" any rights, maybe pro-choicers can start referring to abortions as fetal deportations. Even the most ardent evangelicals might have to get on board, as they're not sure one becomes an American until he's Born Again, let alone born the first time.
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Tags: Abortion, Democrats, Polls, Republicans