Pro-life, anti-abortion, or anti-choice: what label Americans use for people who oppose abortion

Linley SandersData Journalist
June 17, 2022, 2:59 PM GMT+0

On the question of whether abortion access should be a nationally established right, Americans generally know where they stand. People either support access to abortion (commonly called the “pro-choice” group) or believe that abortion access should be banned in most cases (commonly called the “pro-life” group). The establishment of these distinctive names can be traced back to the 1970s, around the same time that the Roe v. Wade decision was issued by the Supreme Court.

In the nearly 50 years since Roe was established, the pro-life and pro-choice labels have remained prevalent — though not everyone uses them. For instance, the Associated Press stylebook advises journalists to use “anti-abortion” in place of “pro-life” and "pro-abortion" instead of “pro-choice.” Some media outlets and organizations that support abortion access also refer to people who oppose abortion access as “anti-choice.”

In an effort to ensure YouGov’s polls on abortion were using the most commonly recognized language, we asked U.S. adult citizens what descriptor best matches someone who is generally opposed to abortion access, with the options of pro-life, anti-abortion, and anti-choice. Respondents could also write in their own answers or say they were unsure. Americans are most likely to use the phrase pro-life (37%), with Republicans (61%) and adults 45 and over (43%) especially likely to select this wording.

About three in 10 Americans (29%) choose anti-abortion as the best descriptor, and 18% pick anti-choice. Democrats are split evenly between selecting anti-abortion (32%) and anti-choice (32%), with fewer picking pro-life (23%).

In a similar question, YouGov asked about descriptors for people who are supportive of abortion access, with the options of pro-choice, pro-abortion, or anti-life. Half of Americans (51%) say pro-choice, while about one-quarter (27%) use pro-abortion. Just one in 11 select anti-life as the best way to describe someone who is supportive of abortion access.

Democrats are especially likely to use the pro-choice language, as are older Americans. Two in five Republicans (40%) say pro-choice, while one-third (34%) refer to this group as pro-abortion (34%). About half as many select anti-life (15%) as the most accurate descriptor. People who call themselves pro-choice are highly likely (67%) to choose that word as the most fitting phrase. People who say they are neither pro-life nor pro-choice pick anti-abortion (33%) at a higher rate than they do pro-life (25%) or anti-choice (14%).

This poll was conducted on June 10 - 14, 2022 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this YouGov poll.

Image: Getty

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