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Fact Sheet

July 7, 2017

Public Opinion on Abortion

    Views on abortion, 1995-2017

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

    Pew Research Center

    Views about abortion, 2017: 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 (33%) or illegal (24%). Fewer take the position that in all cases abortion should be either legal (25%) or illegal (16%).

    Abortion should be ... % of U.S. adults
    Legal in all cases 25
    Legal in most cases 33
    Illegal in most cases 24
    Illegal in all cases 16
    DK/Ref 3

    Pew Research Center

    Views on abortion by religious affiliation, 2017

    Seven-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (70%) think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

    By contrast, 80% of religiously unaffiliated Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do two-thirds of white mainline Protestants (67%).

    Black Protestants and Catholics are somewhat more divided. Among black Protestants, 55% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 41% say it should be illegal. And, among Catholics, 53% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 44% say it should be illegal.

    Religious Affiliation Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
    White evangelical Protestant 29% 70%
    Catholic 53% 44%
    Black Protestant 55% 41%
    White mainline Protestant 67% 30%
    Unaffiliated 80% 17%

    Pew Research Center

    Views on abortion by party identification, 2017

    About two-thirds of Republicans (65%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. By contrast, three-quarters (75%) 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 34% 65%
    Independent 60% 38%
    Democrat 75% 22%

    Pew Research Center

    Views on abortion by political party and ideology, 2017

    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 (71% vs. 27%). Among moderate and liberal Republicans, opinion is more evenly divided: 54% say abortion should be legal, while 45% say it should be illegal.

    The vast majority of liberal Democrats support legal abortion (91%) as do six-in-ten (61%) conservative and moderate Democrats.

    Political party and ideology Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
    Conservative Republican 27% 71%
    Moderate/liberal Republican 54% 45%
    Conservative/moderate Democrat 61% 36%
    Liberal Democrat 91% 8%

    Pew Research Center

    Views on abortion by gender, 2017

    Men and women express similar views on abortion; 59% of women say it should be legal in all or most cases, as do 55% of men.

    Gender Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
    Women 59% 38%
    Men 55% 42%

    Pew Research Center

    Views on abortion by age, 2017

    Among adults under age 30, 65% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do a majority of adults in their 30s and 40s (59%). Roughly half of those in their 50s and early 60s (53%) and those ages 65 and older (53%) say the same.

    Age Legal in all/most cases Illegal in all/most cases
    18-29 65% 33%
    30-49 59% 40%
    50-64 53% 43%
    65+ 53% 44%

    Pew Research Center

    Views on abortion by race and ethnicity, 2017

    Majorities of black (62%) and white (58%) U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Among Hispanics, opinion is evenly split: 50% 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% 40%
    Black, non-Hispanic 62% 34%
    Hispanic 50% 49%

     

    Pew Research Center

    Views on abortion by level of education, 2017

    About seven-in-ten college graduates (69%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do 57% of those with some college education. Opinion is more evenly divided among those with a high school degree or less: 49% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 48% 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 49% 48%
    Some college 57% 40%
    College grad or more 69% 29%

    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 June 8-18, 2017. 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.