- Record-high 69% think first-trimester abortions should be legal
- Near record-high 34% say abortion should be legal in all cases
- Parties are more polarized than ever over abortion legality
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After rising to new heights last year, Americans’ support for legal abortion remains elevated in several long-term Gallup trends.
- A record-high 69% say abortion should generally be legal in the first three months of pregnancy. The prior high of 67% was recorded last May after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization draft was leaked, showing that the court planned to nullify constitutional protection for abortion.
- Most Americans oppose abortion later in pregnancy, but the 37% saying it should be legal in the second three months of pregnancy and 22% in the last three months of pregnancy are the highest Gallup has found in trends since 1996.
- Gallup’s oldest trend on the legality of abortion finds 34% of Americans believe abortion should be legal under any circumstances, nearly matching last year’s record-high 35% and above the 27% average since 1975. Another 51% currently say abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, while 13% (similar to the all-time low of 12%) want it illegal in all circumstances.
- Fifty-two percent of Americans say abortion is morally acceptable, matching last year’s all-time high. This is 10 percentage points above the historical average since 2001.
These findings align with Americans’ reaction to the Dobbs decision, which the Supreme Court handed down on June 24, 2022. A 61% majority of Americans think overturning Roe v. Wade, thus ending constitutional protection for abortion rights and returning the matter to the states, was a “bad thing,” while 38% consider it a “good thing.” Last year at this time, shortly after the Dobbs draft was leaked, 63% said overturning Roe v. Wade would be a bad thing and 32% a good thing.
Gallup measures public attitudes on abortion each May as part of its Values and Beliefs poll. The latest survey was conducted May 1-24.
Support for Abortion Access Still Elevated, but Ambivalence Prevails
Since 1975, Gallup has asked Americans if abortion should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances or illegal in all circumstances. The middle position has always been the lead response, while the proportions favoring full legality or full illegality have varied.
The percentages wanting abortion legal under any circumstances and illegal in all circumstances were closely matched in 2019. Since then, the preference for abortion being legal under any circumstances has swelled, rising from 25% that year to 32% by 2021 and 35% in 2022. It is currently 34%.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans wanting abortion illegal in all circumstances has fallen from 21% in 2019 to 13% in 2022 and 2023.
Since 1994, Gallup has asked those taking the middle position (saying abortion should be legal under certain circumstances) whether they want it to be legal in most or only a few circumstances. Historically, about three times as many have preferred it to be legal in only a few circumstances as legal in most, and that is the case today (36% vs. 13%, respectively). However, when combining these nuanced views with the more absolute positions for and against abortion, the country is now evenly split between those favoring expansive versus restrictive access to abortion.
Specifically, close to half of Americans, 47%, now say abortion should be legal in all (34%) or most (13%) circumstances, while a similar proportion, 49%, want it legal in only a few (36%) or illegal in all (13%) circumstances. This is a change from most of the trend when the majority wanted abortion legal in only a few or no cases. The only exception was last year, when support for it being broadly legal jumped to 53% after the Dobbs leak.
Support for First-Trimester Abortions at Record High
Americans’ views on the legality of abortion have long differed depending on the stage of pregnancy in which the procedure would occur. That continues today, with 69% saying it should generally be legal in the first three months, 37% in the second three months and 22% in the last three months. All three figures are the highest for their respective trends, following seven- to eight-point increases last year. Those support levels have remained steady or increased slightly this year.
Women and men hold similar views on the legality of abortion at each stage of pregnancy, with both favoring it in the first trimester and opposing it in the second and third trimesters. These attitudes based on stage of pregnancy are also broadly similar by age -- although the youngest group, aged 18 to 29, is split on whether abortion should be legal in the second trimester, while among all other age groups, less than half agree.
Sharper differences in views of abortion legality by trimester are seen by party:
- Less than half of Republicans, versus about three-quarters or more of independents and Democrats, think abortion should be legal in the first trimester.
- Democrats are the only group saying it should generally be legal in the second trimester.
- Less than half of all three party groups think abortion should be legal in the third trimester, although Democrats are split on this, with 44% in favor, 44% opposed and 11% saying it depends.
The latest poll also updated a question measuring public support for laws banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which the question defines as usually occurring around the sixth week of pregnancy. Some states have passed such bills, which are among the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. and are permitted after the Dobbs ruling. Consistent with Americans’ broad support for abortion being legal in the first trimester, 59% currently oppose fetal heartbeat laws, while 37% favor them. The latest results are similar to the prior asking in 2019.
‘Pro-Choice’ Position Maintains Post-Dobbs Edge Over ‘Pro-Life’
In most years from 1997 to 2021, Americans were closely split in their self-identification on the abortion issue, with 47%, on average, calling themselves “pro-choice” and 45% “pro-life.” During this time, identification with the labels varied in a fairly narrow range between 41% and 51%. Then, in May 2022, Gallup saw pro-choice identification jump six points to 55% and pro-life identification fall to 39%.
Today, the pendulum has swung back a little -- but at 52%, pro-choice sentiment is still higher than it had been for the quarter century before the Dobbs draft was leaked.
Slight Majority Post-Dobbs Consider Abortion Morally OK
Americans’ views on the morality of abortion have also differed each of the past two years from what they were before the Dobbs leak. Before that, no more than 47% had ever said abortion was morally acceptable, while an equal or larger proportion had said it was morally wrong. That changed in 2022 when the “acceptable” position rose to 52%, well exceeding the 38% who called it morally wrong. And sentiment remains about the same today.
Support for Abortion Has Increased Mainly Among Democrats
The slight increase in Americans saying abortion should be legal under any circumstances since the Dobbs leak largely reflects a shift in Democrats’ views.
Since 2021, Democrats’ support for full legality has increased by 10 points, from 50% to 60%. Over the same period, support for that position has expanded four points to 36% among independents while decreasing seven points to 8% among Republicans.
Longer term, Democrats’ belief that abortion should be legal without restrictions has been increasing since the late 1990s, when roughly a quarter held this view. Independents have been trending less strongly toward that outlook, while Republicans’ views have shifted in the other direction.
Republicans’ 8% support for fully legal abortion is the lowest recorded by Gallup for that group, while the percentages wanting it illegal in all cases (24%) and legal only under certain circumstances (66%) are both up slightly from their recent averages.
The net result of these changes among Republicans and Democrats is that partisans are more polarized on abortion than ever before.
Meanwhile, 21% of Republicans now identify as pro-choice, tying the record low in 2019, while 84% of Democrats, near the record high from 2022, say they are pro-choice. The 52% of independents saying they are pro-choice is similar to the long-term average for this group.
Separately, Gallup finds that 66% of Republicans versus 33% of independents and 12% of Democrats consider the Dobbs decision a good thing. Slightly more Republicans and independents than a year ago say overturning Roe is a good thing, while Democrats' views haven't changed. The 2022 poll was conducted after the Dobbs draft was leaked but before the Supreme Court officially issued its decision in late June.
Support for Abortion Rights Increases Among Women
Following increases each year since 2019, women’s view that abortion should be legal under any circumstances is at a peak of 40%. Men’s view has changed less by comparison, with 27% now favoring absolute legality versus 25% in 2019.
Similarly, women (who are more Democratic than men) have grown increasingly likely to identify as pro-choice. After peaking at 61% last year in the wake of the Dobbs leak, the percentage doing so has receded to 55%. However, that’s still higher than in any year prior to 2022. Meanwhile, just under half of men continue to identify as pro-choice.
The view that the Dobbs decision is a bad thing is also higher among women (66%) than men (54%). Slightly fewer women than last year (71%) say overturning Roe is a bad thing, while men’s opinions are statistically unchanged.
The basic contours of American public opinion on abortion remain as they’ve been for decades: The majority of U.S. adults want abortion legal, with restrictions. Among the rest, more think abortion should be completely legal than completely illegal. And when focusing on when an abortion would occur, the majority think it should be legal in the first trimester, while not legal in the second and third trimesters. But within this broad framework, Americans have shifted toward more acceptance of abortion.
Similarly, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, which may have changed how Americans define what it means to be pro-choice or pro-life, the percentage identifying as pro-choice remains near the high-water mark set last year.
Expanded support for abortion rights is largely occurring among Democrats and, relatedly, among women.
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