Pro-life and pro-choice Americans see different worlds on adoption, murder, and bodily autonomy

Linley SandersData Journalist
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
May 18, 2022, 1:09 AM GMT+0

A recent Economist/YouGov poll finds that about one-third (34%) of Americans describe themselves as pro-choice, while 26% describe themselves as pro-life. One-quarter (24%) say they’re both pro-life and pro-choice and 8% say they’re neither.

How do people who are pro-life differ from people who are pro-choice? Dramatically on many core issues about abortion, including whether the decision should be left to the woman and her doctor, or whether it is equivalent to murder. The closest agreement between the two groups is on the provision of free birth control in the event abortion is outlawed.

Differences between pro-life and pro-choice Americans extend to elections, though not everyone would vote on the issue. Of Americans who say they are pro-choice, 16% say they possibly would vote for someone who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest; half of pro-life Americans might consider not voting for politicians who oppose abortion even in those cases.

Just 12% of Americans who say they are pro-life say they would even consider voting for someone who supports abortion rights in the third trimester, while nearly half of Americans who are pro-choice would consider possibly not voting for that candidate.

The issue of abortion seems to affect both sides in the debate. More pro-life Americans are enthusiastic about voting this year than are pro-choice Americans, by 14 percentage points (45% to 31%). By 7 points (43% to 36%) they are more likely to be paying a lot of attention to the election. But there is only a 1-point difference between pro-life and pro-choice registered voters when it comes to definitely voting — that is, saying they will definitely vote — this fall. More than three in four say that. That, along with increased attention and expressed likelihood of voting from Democrats in general, yields no change in vote intention between all registered voters and those who claim they will definitely vote this fall.

A summary of other findings on abortion from the latest Economist/YouGov poll:

  • 19% of people say a woman who has an abortion that violates state law should be charged with murder, while 54% say she should not be.
  • While 67% of Americans say states should not be able to prevent people from crossing state lines to receive medical treatments banned in their own states, only 61% say people in states that restrict abortion should be allowed to receive an abortion in other states with less restrictive laws (18% oppose allowing this).
  • Where do Americans think Biden stands on the issue of abortion? People who consider themselves pro-life are far more likely to think that Biden believes there should be no restrictions on abortion (58% of them say this) than are people who consider themselves pro-choice (35% of them say this).
  • 21% of Americans say they could support a candidate who opposes a woman’s right to an abortion even in cases of rape and incest, while 55% say they could not support a candidate who holds this view.
  • 24% of Americans say they could support a candidate who opposes a woman’s right to an abortion even in the third trimester, while 48% say they could not support a candidate who holds this view.
  • Asked whether things in this country today are generally headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track, 38% of Democrats say “headed in the right direction.” That’s down from 50% and 48% on the last two polls.
  • Asked specifically about abortion, 72% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans say the country is off on the wrong track.

A summary of other findings on the Supreme Court from the latest Economist/YouGov poll:

  • After the leak of the draft Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, many Americans trust the judicial branch, but Democrats have lost trust in the Supreme Court

  • People place more trust in the judicial branch (47% say a fair amount or a great deal) than in the executive (41%) and legislative (31%) branches.
  • Slightly more people view the judicial branch as most powerful (20%) than view the executive (16%) and legislative (14%) branches as most powerful.
  • A majority (59%) say that Supreme Court justices let their own personal or political views influence their decisions, including 72% of Democrats — up from 45% when we last asked in March 2017.
  • Asked how much trust and confidence they have in the Supreme Court and other federal courts, 10% of Democrats say a great deal and 28% say a fair amount. When we last asked, in July 2019, those figures were 14% and 43%.

Samuel Alito, who wrote the draft decision, is viewed favorably by 52% of Republicans while 36% said they didn’t know. A month earlier, those figures were 38% and 47% (that poll gave the option of “don’t know” instead of “not sure”). The percentage of Democrats who view him unfavorably rose from 31% to 46%.

— Carl Bialik contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on May 8 - 10, 2022, among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll: Abortion | The Supreme Court

Image: Unsplash/Maria Oswalt