RNS

In no state in the US does even one-quarter of the population say abortion should be illegal in all cases, a new survey shows.

The report, released Tuesday by Public Religion Research Institute, shows that in five states, at least 20 per cent of the population believes abortion should be legal in all cases: Louisiana (23 per cent), Mississippi (22 per cent), Arkansas (21 per cent), Tennessee (21 per cent), Nebraska (21 per cent), North Dakota (20 per cent) and Kentucky (20 per cent).

But even in Alabama and Missouri, where laws have recently been passed to make abortion illegal with practically no exceptions, fewer than a fifth of the population says abortion should be illegal all the time. In Alabama just 16 per cent opposes abortion at all times, while 19 per cent of Missourians hold that position. The anti-abortion laws are facing court challenges in both states.

“These results demonstrate that the Republican-controlled legislatures who have passed state laws that amount to a virtual ban on abortion are out of touch not just with Americans overall but with residents of their own states and members of their own party,” said PRRI CEO and founder Robert P Jones in an announcement of the survey results. “Few Americans, even in the most conservative states in the country, believe that abortion should be banned outright,” he continued.

Views on abortion

These state-by-state findings come at a time when national views on abortion have remained stable. In 2018, 15 per cent of those surveyed said it should be illegal in all cases, according to PRRI, compared to 16 per cent in 2014. In 2018, 23 per cent of respondents said abortion should be legal in all cases, compared to 21 per cent four years earlier.

In 22 states, less than half of those surveyed say abortion should be legal all or most of the time. In 12 of those states, a majority say abortion should be illegal.

The study’s researchers found that more than three-quarters of Americans surveyed said their opinion about abortion had remained unchanged over the last five years.

Hispanic Protestants (21 per cent) and Hispanic Catholics (16 per cent) were the two religious groups that most reported having become “more opposed” to abortion. Buddhist (18 per cent) and New Age adherents (18 per cent) were among those that most reported becoming “more supportive.”

Members of conservative religious groups were more likely to favor making abortion illegal in all or most cases, including white evangelical Protestants (65 per cent); Jehovah’s Witnesses (68 per cent); Mormons (66 per cent); and Hispanic Protestants (58 per cent).

But a majority of other Protestant groups, including white mainline Protestants (59 per cent) and black Protestants (56 per cent), say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Catholics are almost equally divided, with four in 10 against making abortion legal in all or most cases and a similar percentage against illegality in all or most instances.

But when race and ethnicity are considered, there are more striking differences of opinion among Catholics.

For example, a slim majority of white Catholics (52 per cent) supports the legality of abortion, while only 41 per cent of Hispanic Catholics do.

Among Hispanic Protestants, 63 per cent who identify as evangelical oppose legal abortion, compared to 43 per cent of their non-evangelical counterparts. And among African American Protestants, 51 per cent of those who identify as evangelical generally support legal abortion compared to 67 per cent of black non-evangelicals.

One-fifth (21 per cent) of Americans say a political candidate’s abortion view is a “deal-breaker,” with a higher percentage of those opposing legal abortion (27 per cent) saying only a candidate who shares their view would get their vote. Eighteen per cent of those supporting legal abortion consider it a deal-breaking issue.

Hispanic Protestants, white evangelical Protestants and Jewish Americans were the religious groups with the highest proportion - at just under three in 10 - who say they would only vote for a candidate who shares their abortion view.

The survey questioned 40,292 respondents between 14th March, 2018, and 16th December, 2018 and had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 0.5 percentage points. The margin of error for respondents of different religious affiliation varied with sample sizes. It was plus or minus 1.2 percentage points for white evangelical and white mainline Protestants and plus or minus seven percentage points for followers of New Age religion.