A Gallup poll released yesterday analyzing data from the past four years shows that nearly half of Americans, many of whom think abortion should be legal at least in some cases, nevertheless believe that abortion is morally wrong. The poll also found the same phenomenon on a number of other controversial issues, with many respondents believing certain activities, though immoral, should not be illegal:
Americans are often more likely to view behaviors as morally wrong than they are to advocate that these behaviors be made illegal. This underscores a general tendency for Americans to hesitate before deciding that banning an action is appropriate. As a result, one can come away with a somewhat different impression from looking at Americans’ views of the morality of a behavior versus looking at their views of whether the behavior involved should be made illegal.
The report combined data from surveys given from 2013 to the present and found that nearly half (48 percent) of Americans consider abortion morally wrong. However, just 20 percent of those surveyed say it should be totally illegal:
That means that almost three in 10 Americans have the combination of attitudes that is our primary focus: viewing abortion as morally wrong but at the same time believing it should remain legal (at least in some circumstances).
On the other hand, just 2 percent hold the contradictory attitudes — that abortion is morally acceptable but should be illegal. This shows that “apparently, once Americans have decided that abortion is morally OK, there is little question in their minds that it should be legal.”
The biggest takeaway from this comparison of attitudes is that only about 40 percent of Americans would agree that abortion is morally acceptable and should be legal. The majority think it is immoral and/or should be illegal. That would explain why another poll from January of this year found that a whopping 85 percent of Americans want some restrictions on abortion and that 74 percent say those restrictions should be “significant.”
The analysis also looked at views on the moral acceptability and legality of two other hot-button issues — doctor-assisted suicide and gay and lesbian relations — and reached similar conclusions. Although the “morally wrong but legal” groups for both these categories were smaller than for abortion, Gallup still concluded that a “not insignificant number of Americans” consider both doctor-assisted suicide and gay and lesbian relations immoral, but are reluctant to say they should be illegal.
What this study shows is — contrary to what the mainstream media and pro-choice politicians would have Americans believe — those who think that abortion is immoral and/or should be illegal are not a small minority, but in reality represent the majority. Conversely, those who think abortion is moral and should be legal are actually in the minority. In addition, many people who are often counted in polls as being “pro-assisted suicide” or “pro-gay and lesbian relations” on account of their views on the legality of such issues are actually morally opposed to them.
So it would seem that social conservatism remains strongly embedded in American society, even if it doesn’t always affect vote totals.
Photo credit: Anna Levinzon via Flickr, CC BY 2.0