Another failed attempt to minimize the results of Gallup’s poll

By Dave Andrusko

The Gallup Poll and the vanishing “pro-choice” self-designation, Part Three.

Ask yourself the following question. If you are pro-abortion (or a reporter  sympathetic to their cause) and Gallup finds that the lowest percentage of people ever describe themselves as “pro-choice” [41%], what do you do, besides close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears?

The fact that 50% now describe themselves as “pro-life,” just one point from the high water mark,  means [drum roll]…….nothing. THERE’S a surprise.

A common thread is that what it means to be “pro-life” or “pro-choice” is not spelled out in the Gallup question. True (sort of), but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that objection was never raised when there were many, many more people self-designating as “pro-choice” than pro-life.

By sort of true I mean what people “mean” can be gleaned from follow up questions where they answered the question in what circumstances abortion should be legal. We’ve talked about this in detail before, BUT it is a very, very important point.

Those who pooh-pooh the change say that the percentage of people holding the “middle” position–abortion should be legal “under certain circumstances”–has barely changed. But this misses—not to put too fine a point on it—everything!

Gallup asks “certain circumstances” responders a follow-up question: “Do you think abortion should be legal in most circumstances or only in a few circumstances?”

With this clarification, a total of 59% of respondents said abortion should be legal in only a few circumstances (39%) or illegal in all circumstances (20%). That compares with a total of 38% who said that abortion should be legal under any circumstances (25%), or under most circumstances (13%).

The most interesting attempt to minimize what the new Gallup numbers means came from a Los Angeles Times reporter. (It illustrates yet again you need an editor who asks you to think through what you just wrote.)


“The reason for that change in labeling may reflect partisanship: Republicans and Republican-leaning independents may have grown uncomfortable with the ‘pro-choice’ label as their party has more and more identified itself as ‘pro-life.’”

What does that mean? That they’ve been intimidated/shamed into saying something that they don’t believe over the phone to a complete stranger knowing you don’t have to worry about what YOU say getting out? This is silly, if not preposterous. What Gallup points out is that abortion news has been in the press everywhere. A better, more likely explanation is that more Republicans approve, not disapprove, of their party’s high-profile pro-life position.


Gallup found that the percentage of Republicans who identify themselves as ‘pro-choice’ has fallen fairly steadily, from 30% in 2001 to 22% in the latest poll. Democrats have fluctuated a bit from year to year, but overall, have not changed – 55% called themselves pro-choice in 2001 and 58% do now. A big shift has also taken place among independents. In 2001, 56% of people who called themselves independents said they were pro-choice, but now 41% do. That shift has occurred during a decade in which people who call themselves independents have become a more Republican-leaning group, overall.

This one makes you laugh out loud. What is the point? That “Independents” are not realllllly Independents, but are merely using that designation as a place marker on their way to becoming Republicans? If so, and you are a Democrat, that is cold comfort.

Again, what is a more logical conclusion? That for all the reasons we’ve talked about in this space a hundred times—everything from younger people being more pro-life, to the enormous impact of ultrasounds, to how forced abortions undermine women’s rights, and the ongoing pro-life educational programs of National Right to life and its 3,000 chapters —people are more willing to say they are pro-life because they ARE more pro-life  

Finally, it is true that even as Republicans and Independents increasingly identify as pro-life, over time there has not been a huge change among Democrats. But it is also true that a year ago 68% of Democrats self-identified as pro-choice while only 58% do now. That is a huge swing.

Over the next few weeks we will see more and more attempts to explain away what Gallup found. None of these attempts will alter the truth.

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