A Shift on Abortion?
By Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta
Both foes and supporters of legal abortion should sit back and take a broad view before overreacting to Thursday's release of new poll numbers showing a big shift in Americans' attitudes about abortion.
The reason for skepticism (or at least restraint) is simple: other polls, including the Washington Post-ABC News poll, have not picked up such a basic reorientation on this divisive issue.
With their new data, Pew shows a sizable drop from 2008 to 2009 in the percentage of Americans saying abortion should be "legal in all cases" or "legal in most cases," a move that coincides with the election of a pro-choice president. Earlier this year, Gallup caused a stir with a similar finding: that the number of "pro-life" Americans for the first time outnumbered those describing themselves as "pro-choice." (A tilt back the other way two months later picked up little notice.)
Elsewhere the trend is decidedly different, as there has been no fundamental realignment on the question of legal abortion in Post-ABC polls (we ask the identical question). Nor have recent Post polls in Virginia picked up any such change in that key swing state. National polls by the AP, CBS News and the New York Times and Quinnipiac University also show no big increase in opposition to legal abortion.
Posted at 2:45 PM ET on Oct 1, 2009
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