Polls: Americans Evolve on Gay Marriage, Devolve on Abortion

Because all things in the pubic zone draw the focus of the religious right, these so-called "social issues" are often lumped together, leading to the presumption that people who support marriage equality are the same people who support reproductive justice in the form of abortion rights. But two polls released today show a rift among Americans on those topics, with more accepting same-sex marriage than the moral legitimacy of abortion.

Last month, Phyllis Schlafly, the right wing's anti-feminist, anti-gay grande dame, crowed to an audience at George Washington University that, on the issue of abortion rights, "we're winning." And indeed the right is winning on abortion, according to the latest Gallup poll, which found the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as "pro-choice" at a record low of 41 percent. That's a 6-point dive since last July.

That result, though, speaks as much to a branding problem for the term "pro-choice" as it does a problem with general support for abortion rights. From the Gallup report:

While Americans' identification as "pro-choice" has waned over the past year, their fundamental views about the morality and legality of abortion have held steady. Half of Americans, 51%, consider abortion morally wrong and 38% say it is morally acceptable -- nearly identical to the results in May 2011.

But that doesn't mean there's not a problem. Since 2001, the percentage of people who say they believe abortion to be morally wrong has climbed by 6 points; 11 years ago, only 46 percent claimed abortion to be morally wrong.

On the matter of marriage equality, we find exactly the opposite result. In fact, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows a surge of acceptance for same-sex marriage, some of it attributable to President Barack Obama's endorsement two weeks ago. From the Washington Post report on the poll:

Overall, 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be legal, hitting a high mark in support while showing a dramatic turnaround from just six years ago, when just 36 percent thought it should be legal. Thirty-nine percent, a new low, say gay marriage should be illegal.

The poll also finds that 59 percent of African Americans say they support same-sex marriage, up from an average of 41 percent in polls leading up to Obama's announcement of his new position on the matter. Though statistically significant, it is a tentative result because of the relatively small sample of black voters in the poll.

One probably factor in the shift in public opinion? Some 71 percent of Americans say they have a family member, friend or acquaintance who is gay. Which leads one to wonder, how many Americans would say they know someone who had an abortion? My guess is not many, even though they likely do.

For years, beginning with a Ms. magazine initiative in the 1970s, feminists have urged women who have had abortions to come forward and tell their stories. But in a nation where women who have made such a choice are often deemed to be murderers, is it any wonder that they hesitate?

AlterNet / By Adele M. Stan

Posted at May 23, 2012, 3:31am

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018