Moral acceptability of abortion varies widely among Protestant denominations, Gallup finds

“Mainline” denominations far more accepting

By Dave Andrusko

Acceptance of Moral Issues Varies by Protestant Denomination Numbers represent % "Morally acceptable"

Acceptance of Moral Issues Varies by Protestant Denomination
Numbers represent % “Morally acceptable”

An analysis by Gallup of aggregated data from Gallup’s annual “Values and Beliefs” surveys, conducted each May since 2001 finds that “Mainline Protestants” are far more “liberal” on moral issues than Southern Baptists, non-denominational churches, and Pentecostal churches.

Not exactly breaking news, but worth analyzing for a number of reasons. As a single issue organization, we will only look at responses to the question about abortion,

The story written by Frank Newport doesn’t include the actual wording which is

Next, I’m going to read you a list of issues. Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, for each one, please tell me whether you personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong. How about abortion?

The Mainline Protestant denominations are Episcopalians, Presbyterians Lutherans, and Methodists. As the graph included on this page show, Episcopalians are those likely to find abortion morally acceptable (57%), followed by Presbyterians (53%) with Lutherans and Methodists tied at 46%.

By contrast only 13% of Pentecostals find abortion morally acceptable, followed by Southern Baptists (17%), Non-Denominational (26%), and Other Baptist (27%).

Newport properly warns that since these are aggregate data collected over 17 years, this doesn’t necessarily reflect where these Protestant denominations are today.

What, according to Newport, are the implications?

Protestants regardless of denomination are often combined into a single group for survey analysis purposes. For example, the 2016 presidential election exit polls divided voters broadly into Protestants and Catholics. But the current analysis documents major differences within the broad group of Protestants on a set of important policy issues relating to moral values, underscoring the need for caution among those attempting to characterize Americans by their religion.

Three quick points. First, according to a survey published by Gallup in July, there are fewer Protestants that identify with a specific denomination and a growing number of “nones” who don’t have a specific religious identity at all. The fastest growing Protestant “denomination” is the non-denominational.

Barely a quarter of them (26%) find abortion morally acceptable.

Second, as noted in the quote above, this same caution must be exercised when talking about “Catholics.” Their position on the moral acceptability of abortion will vary along many grounds, most specifically how often they attend church.

Third, Pew Research finds very, very different results. From January 2017.

More than four-in-ten Americans (44%) say having an abortion is morally wrong, while 19% think it is morally acceptable and 34% say it is not a moral issue. These views also differ by religious affiliation: About three-quarters of white evangelical Protestants (76%) say having an abortion is morally wrong, but just 23% of religiously unaffiliated people agree.

How can that be? Gallup asks something that is essentially abstract while Pew queries about what people feel when they are asked about having an abortion. This is a reality check and people are far less likely to say it is morally acceptable to actually abort a child.

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