The 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision will take place in just a few days (January 22, 2013), and The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life recently conducted a survey concerning current Americans views on abortion. Their original “topline” version of the survey results included a comparison of views on smoking marijuana and tax evasion. Thanks to Google’s cache feature, you can view that topline version here (though it’s no longer available at their site).
According to the study, 13% of those surveyed believed “having an abortion” was “morally acceptable,” (slightly higher than the 10% in 2009 and 12% in 2006). Compare that to Americans’ views on smoking marijuana: only 12% consider it to be a morally acceptable choice. Additionally, only 6% of Americans believe that “not reporting all income on your taxes” is morally acceptable.
The study also showed that 47% of Americans believe having an abortion is “morally wrong” – compared to the whopping 71% of Americans believing it was morally wrong to not report all income on their taxes. The number of those considering abortion to be morally wrong has dwindled five points from 2006, and the number of Americans who don’t consider abortion to be a moral issue has increased five points from 2006.
Shockingly, over a third of survey respondents did not understand that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision dealt with abortion. But the survey was clear to define it carefully in their question before asking whether or not respondents think the decision should be overturned:
“In 1973 the Roe versus Wade decision established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Would you like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn its Roe versus Wade decision, or not?”
A whopping 63% of respondents believe the decision should not be overturned – more than twice as many who believe it should be overturned (29%). However, trend-wise, the number of those believing the decision should stand ticked down a couple of points from 2005, while the number of those thinking it should be overturned ticked up four points from the same year.
But less than one in five respondents believe “the issue of abortion is a critical issue facing the country,” and 27% believe it’s “one among many important issues,” while 53% believe it’s just not that important compared to other issues.
Surprisingly, gender has very little to do with views on Roe v. Wade – 64% of women and 63% of men would like to see the decision stand. Race was also a nonfactor – 66% of white Americans and 67% of black Americans would also like to see the decision stand.
But your religious affiliation has everything to do with your views on abortion. The only group surveyed with a majority belief that the Supreme Court decision should be overturned was white evangelical Protestants (54%). And those religiously unaffiliated believe the decision should stand by a whopping 82% of respondents.
Political affiliation plays a big part as well – while slightly more Republicans believe it should stand rather than be overturned (48% to 46%), almost three quarters (74%) of Democrats and almost two thirds of independents (64%) believe it should stand.
Speaking of independents, the topline survey results featured another interesting gem – more independents are trending Democratic than Republican in the past couple of years. And since most pundits agree that when it comes to close elections, independent voters are the deciding factor, one might wonder whether or not a party’s views on abortion could be a deciding factor in recent and potentially upcoming elections.