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US Public Views on Abortion Largely Stable, Report Finds

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Views on abortion among the U.S. public have remained largely stable in recent years, according to a report published Aug. 13 by Public Religion Research Institute.

Respondents who think abortion should be legal in all cases increased two percentage points to 23% from 2014 to 2018, while those who feel it should be legal in most cases dropped three points to 31% over the same time period.

Those who feel abortion should be illegal in most cases remained the same (25%), while those who said it should be illegal in all cases declined one point to 15% from 2014 to 2018.

“Although a few states such as Alabama and Missouri have recently passed laws that – should they survive court challenges – would make abortion illegal with virtually no exceptions, there is no state in which more than one-quarter of residents say abortion should be illegal in all cases,” the report said.

“States with the largest proportion of residents who say abortion should be illegal in all cases include Louisiana (23%), Mississippi (22%), Arkansas (21%), Nebraska (21%), Tennessee (21%), Kentucky (20%) and North Dakota (20%). In all other states … fewer than one in five think abortion should be illegal in all cases.”

Republican support for legal abortion in all cases dropped five points to 34%, while independent support remained the same (55%) and Democratic support rose three points to 70%.

Responses varied significantly by religious tradition, with Jehovah’s Witnesses (68%), Mormons (66%) and white evangelical Protestants (65%) being most likely to say abortion should be illegal in most or all instances.

The most likely respondents to say abortion should be legal in all or most instances were Unitarian Universalists (83%), New Age (73%) and religiously unaffiliated (72%).

Among Christian respondents, black non-evangelical Protestants were most likely to support abortion being legal in most or all instances (67%), followed by white mainline Protestants (59%).

In the past five years, Hispanic Catholics were most likely to have become more opposed to abortion (21% of respondents reported this change), followed by Jehovah’s Witnesses (17%) and Hispanic Catholics (16%).

Buddhists and New Age respondents were most likely to say they are more supportive of abortion than they were five years ago (18% for both groups reported this shift), followed by Hindus (16%) and Unitarian Universalists and black Protestants (both at 15%).

“Americans who know someone who has had an abortion are much more likely than people who have had no such experience to think abortion should be legal in most or all cases,” the report said.

“Three in four (75%) Americans who report having had an abortion think it should be legal in most or all cases, while 60% of people who know a friend, family member or someone else who has had an abortion agree.”

The full report is available here.