Friday, May 15, 2009

The Obama effect? More Americans identify as 'pro-life'

A brand new Gallup poll shows 51 percent of Americans call themselves "pro-life" while 42 percent identify as "pro-choice." According to the report, "This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995." Only one year ago, 50 percent identified as pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life.

The Gallup report concludes:

With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation's policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans -- and, in particular, Republicans -- seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position. However, the retreat is evident among political moderates as well as conservatives.

It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be "pro-choice" slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.
Jill Stanek has similar thoughts. President Obama's radical policies will cost many innocent human lives, but one bright spot may be a boost in pro-life activism and a growing trend toward the pro-life position among those in the middle.

Update: The excellent Michael New says pro-lifers shouldn't read too much into this sort of poll. But he adds:

That having been said, the broader gains that pro-lifers have made in public opinion over time can be readily seen in other ways. In fact, Erbe and others of like mind are somewhat naïve if they have missed the change in abortion politics over the past several years. For instance, the pro-choice Governors who were once thought to be the future of the Republican party (Whitman, Weld, Wilson) have vanished from the political scene. Furthermore, the amount of infighting over the Republican party's pro-life plank has greatly diminished.

More importantly, Democrats have made a concerted effort to reach out to pro-life voters. Neither Barack Obama nor John Kerry even mentioned support for legal abortion during their respective acceptance speeches at the 2004 and 2008 Democratic convention. When asked about abortion, President Obama seems somewhat dodgy and a little evasive. Instead of presenting the pro-choice position in a shrill, uncompromising way, he usually talks about the need to reduce abortion and ways of finding common ground. Furthermore, many Democrats have (unpersuasively) made the argument that more generous welfare programs are an effective strategy for reducing abortion.