January 11, 2017

Public Opinion on Abortion

Views on abortion, 1995-2016

As of 2016, public support for legal abortion is as high as it has been in two decades of polling. Currently, 57% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Year Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
1995 60% 38%
1996 57% 40%
1997 -- --
1998 54% 42%
1999 56% 42%
2000 53% 43%
2001 54% 43%
2002 -- --
2003 57% 42%
2004 55% 43%
2005 57% 41%
2006 51% 43%
2007 52% 42%
2008 54% 40%
2009 47% 44%
2010 50% 44%
2011 53% 42%
2012 54% 39%
2013 54% 40%
2014 55% 40%
2015 51% 43%
2016 57% 39%

Pew Research Center

Views about abortion, 2016: A detailed look

Though abortion is a divisive issue, more than half of U.S. adults take a non-absolutist position, saying that in most – but not all – cases abortion should be legal (34%) or illegal (24%). Fewer take the position that in all cases abortion should be either legal (23%) or illegal (15%).

Abortion should be ... % of U.S. adults
Legal in all cases 23
Legal in most cases 34
Illegal in most cases 24
Illegal in all cases 15
DK/Ref 3

Pew Research Center

Views on abortion by religious affiliation, 2016

About two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants (69%) think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

By contrast, roughly three-quarters of religiously unaffiliated Americans (78%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do two-thirds of white mainline Protestants (67%) and six-in-ten black Protestants.

Catholics are somewhat more divided, with 54% who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 42% who say it should be illegal.

Religious Affiliation Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
White evangelical Protestant 28% 69%
Catholic 54% 42%
Black Protestant 60% 36%
White mainline Protestant 67% 30%
Unaffiliated 78% 20%

Pew Research Center

Views on abortion by party identification, 2016

Six-in-ten Republicans say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. By contrast, about three-quarters (74%) of Democrats say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Among independents, 60% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Party Identification Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
Republican 36% 60%
Independent 60% 37%
Democrat 74% 24%

Pew Research Center

Views on abortion by political party and ideology, 2016

Conservative Republicans are far more likely to say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases than to say that it should be legal (68% vs. 29%). Among moderate and liberal Republicans, opinion is more evenly divided: 55% say abortion should be legal, while 42% say it should be illegal.

The vast majority of liberal Democrats support legal abortion (85%) as do nearly two-thirds (65%) of conservative and moderate Democrats.

Political party and ideology Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
Conservative Republican 29% 68%
Moderate/liberal Republican 55% 42%
Conservative/moderate Democrat 65% 33%
Liberal Democrat 85% 12%

Pew Research Center

Views on abortion by gender, 2016

Men and women express similar views on abortion: 57% of each say it should be legal in all or most cases.

Gender Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
Women 57% 40%
Men 57% 39%

Pew Research Center

Views on abortion by age, 2016

Among adults under age 30, 61% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do majorities of adults in their 30s and 40s (58%) , those in their 50s and early 60s (55%) and those who are ages 65 and older (54%).

Age Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
18-29 61% 37%
30-49 58% 38%
50-64 55% 42%
65+ 54% 40%

Pew Research Center

Views on abortion by race and ethnicity, 2016

Majorities of both black (62%) and white (58%) U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Among Hispanics, opinion is evenly split: 48% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 49% say it should be illegal.

Race and ethnicity Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
White, non-Hispanic 58% 39%
Black, non-Hispanic 62% 35%
Hispanic 48% 49%

 

Pew Research Center

Views on abortion by level of education, 2016

Two-thirds of college graduates (66%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do 58% of those with some college education. Opinion is more evenly divided among those with a high school degree or less: 50% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 46% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Level of Education Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
High school or less 50% 46%
Some college 58% 39%
College grad or more 66% 31%

Pew Research Center

1
  1. Source: Aggregated data from Pew Research Center polls conducted in each year or combination of years. See the topline for question wording details, and information on the Pew Research Center’s polling methodology can be found here. Note: For more information on other religious groups or state-by-state data, please see our Religious Landscape Study.