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Fact Sheet

October 15, 2018

Public Opinion on Abortion

    Views on abortion, 1995-2018

    As of 2018, public support for legal abortion remains as high as it has been in two decades of polling. Currently, 58% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% 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%
    2017 57% 40%
    2018 58% 37%

    Pew Research Center


    Views about abortion, 2018: 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 (22%). Fewer take the position that in all cases abortion should be either legal (25%) or illegal (15%).

    Abortion should be ... % of U.S. adults
    Legal in all cases 25
    Legal in most cases 34
    Illegal in most cases 22
    Illegal in all cases 15
    DK/Ref 5

     

    Pew Research Center


    Views on abortion by religious affiliation, 2018

    About six-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (61%) think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

    By contrast, 74% of religiously unaffiliated Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do two-thirds of white mainline Protestants (67%).

    Catholics are somewhat more divided; 51% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 42% say it should be illegal.

    Religious Affiliation Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
    White evangelical Protestant 34% 61%
    Catholic 51% 42%
    White mainline Protestant 67% 28%
    Unaffiliated 74% 21%

    Pew Research Center


    Views on abortion by party identification, 2018

    About six-in-ten Republicans (59%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. By contrast, three-quarters (76%) 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% 59%
    Independent 60% 35%
    Democrat 76% 21%

    Pew Research Center


    Views on abortion by political party and ideology, 2018

    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 (66% vs. 29%). Among moderate and liberal Republicans, 58% say abortion should be legal, while 37% say it should be illegal.

    The vast majority of liberal Democrats support legal abortion (84%) as do roughly seven-in-ten (68%) conservative and moderate Democrats.

    Political party and ideology Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
    Conservative Republican 29% 66%
    Moderate/liberal Republican 58% 37%
    Conservative/moderate Democrat 68% 26%
    Liberal Democrat 84% 15%

    Pew Research Center

    Views on abortion by gender, 2018

    Men and women express similar views on abortion; 60% of women say it should be legal in all or most cases, as do 57% of men.

    Gender Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
    Women 60% 36%
    Men 57% 37%

    Pew Research Center


    Views on abortion by age, 2018

    Among adults under age 30, 63% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do a majority of adults in their 30s and 40s (59%). More than half of those in their 50s and early 60s (56%) and those ages 65 and older (57%) say the same.

    Age Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
    18-29 63% 35%
    30-49 59% 37%
    50-64 56% 38%
    65+ 57% 37%

    Pew Research Center


    Views on abortion by race and ethnicity, 2018

    About six-in-ten black (60%) and white (61%) U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Among Hispanics, opinion is more evenly split: 49% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 44% say it should be illegal.

    Race and ethnicity Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
    White, non-Hispanic 61% 35%
    Black, non-Hispanic 60% 38%
    Hispanic 49% 44%

     

    Pew Research Center


    Views on abortion by level of education, 2018

    About seven-in-ten college graduates (71%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do 60% of those with some college education. Opinion is more evenly divided among those with a high school degree or less: 48% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 47% 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 48% 47%
    Some college 60% 35%
    College grad or more 71% 25%

    Pew Research Center

    Note:  For more information on other religious groups or state-by-state data on views about abortion, please see our Religious Landscape Study.
    Source: Survey conducted Sept. 18-24, 2018. Trend lines show aggregated data from polls conducted in each year. Question wording can be found here, and information on the Pew Research Center’s polling methodology can be found here.