Young People Increasingly Pro-Life, although you’d never know it by the New York Times
By Michael J. New
Editor’s note. This originally appeared in a different form on National Review Online.
For as long as I can remember, mainstream-media outlets are constantly advising Republicans to focus on economic issues and either downplay or moderate their stances on social issues. Thursday article in the New York Times is certainly no exception.
However, aspects of the Times article are very misleading. Nowhere in the article does the Times cite any polling data on abortion. They instead rely on quotes and anecdotes from the people they chose to interview. They most likely chose to do that because much survey evidence shows that the pro-life position has made some very impressive gains among young adults.
This can be seen in several ways. The General Social Survey (GSS) has been collecting opinion data on abortion using the exact same battery of questions since the 1970s. In most years, respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 tend to be the least sympathetic toward the pro-life position. However, starting around the year 2000, those between the ages 18 and 29 were on average significantly more pro-life than those from other age cohorts.
In July, the National Right to Life Committee released the results of a survey which found that young adults between 18 to 44 were more likely to support the D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act than older Americans.
Students for Life of America (SFLA) recently commissioned a professional survey on the abortion attitudes of young adults ages 18–24 which also found encouraging results.
Since the day the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision, pro-lifers have been advised to pack their bags and go home. Thankfully, the pro-life movement did not give up and instead invested in educational and outreach efforts, especially to young people. (See, for example, www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/08/virginias-new-pro-life-leadership-program-camp-joshua-a-great-success-2.)
Countless surveys show that these efforts have succeeded in shifting public opinion in a pro-life direction during the past 20 years — with some of the largest gains taking place among young adults.
The history of the abortion debate shows that pro-lifers have the ability to frame issues and raise arguments that can positively affect opinion trends. Political and cultural developments also sometimes produce some unexpected shifts in public opinion in favor of life.