Half of Americans know they have a personal connection to someone who has had an abortion

October 15, 2021, 9:00 PM UTC

The well-known divide on abortion attitudes splits Americans on the basis of whether or not they think abortion should be legal. Another important division: Half of American adults in a recent Economist/YouGov Poll say they know someone — a family member, friend, or acquaintance — who has had an abortion, or have had one themselves. Half say they do not. 

There is generally greater likelihood that people with characteristics that correspond more with support of abortion legality will say they know someone who has had an abortion — but it’s far from absolute.

More women than men and more Democrats than Republicans say they know someone who has had an abortion, but even many with a characteristic that is correlated with opposition to abortion legality say they know someone who has had an abortion: 49% of Republicans and half of people for whom religion is very important say they have known someone who has had an abortion or have had one themselves.

More women than men say they know someone who has had an abortion — and that’s true for women overall and within political parties. Women who are Democrats are 13 points more likely than men who are Democrats to say they have known someone who has had an abortion; the gender gap is 19 points among Independents and 18 points among Republicans.

Majorities of women in each political group say they know someone who has had an abortion. More white Americans than black Americans say they know someone who has had an abortion. All figures include people who have had abortions, which helps explain why the proportions are higher for women than for men.

Women also are more likely to say they know someone they are close to who has had an abortion. Excluding acquaintances and looking only at people who say they have a close friend or family member who has had an abortion, 37% of women say so, compared to just 28% of men.

In addition to being more likely to say they know someone who has had an abortion, 13% of women say they have had an abortion themselves: 17% of women who are Democrats and 9% of women who are Republicans.

Does saying you know someone who has had an abortion correspond more with support or opposition to the legality of abortion? In general, people who say they have had an abortion or know someone who has are more likely to support the legality of abortion than are people who say they don’t know someone who has had an abortion. 

One in 10 respondents preferred not to answer the question about knowing someone who has had an abortion; women were somewhat more likely to take this option. In this group, opinions on the legality of abortion are similar to opinions among people who say they don’t know anyone who has had an abortion.

Women who have had abortions or who say they know someone who has had one, however close the relationship, all support abortion being legal by large margins.

People who say they know someone who has had an abortion or have had one themselves pay more attention to the abortion debate. Nearly half of people who say they know someone who has had an abortion or have had one themselves have heard a lot about the new Texas and Mississippi laws limiting when abortions can be performed. Only one in four people who say they don’t know someone who has had an abortion and haven’t had one themselves say they have heard a lot about the laws. Those who say they know someone who has had an abortion or have had one themselves are more likely to oppose the new laws.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between October 3 - 5, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2020 Presidential vote. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.1% for the overall sample. 

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