Marist Poll: Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Majorities Want More Abortion Restrictions

The poll found that overwhelming majorities of people support major restrictions on abortion.

(photo: Shutterstock)

A new poll shows that while most Americans identify themselves as “pro-choice,” the vast majority of the same group support increased restrictions on abortion.

The poll found that overwhelming majorities of people, even those who identify as “pro-choice” in theory, support major restrictions on abortion. The poll also found only minority support for late-term abortion.

The poll, conducted by Marist Poll and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, surveyed 1,066 American adults between Jan. 8 and 10. It is the 11th year Marist and the Knights of Columbus have polled about abortion and pro-life attitudes in the United States.

While the headline number showing a majority of Americans calling themselves “pro-choice” would suggest a similar number would oppose abortion restrictions, that does not tell the whole story, Marist Poll Director Barbara Carvalho and Knights of Columbus Vice President Andrew Walther explained in a call with members of the media.

“We actually have an enormous amount of support [for restricting abortion] from Americans of all political stripes,” said Walther.

“We’re not really looking at a lot of people at the extremes, as we often hear in the debate in Washington,” said Carvalho. “But we actually see one where there is a good deal of common ground on a whole host of policy positions.”

Only 25% of those who identified themselves as “pro-choice” said they believed abortion should be available to a woman at any time during a pregnancy, the current law in the United States. Conversely, 42% of pro-choice respondents said that they believed abortion should only be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy.

In total, 55% of those surveyed said they identified as “pro-choice,” compared to 38% who claimed to be “pro-life” and 7% who were unsure.

When further broken down by political parties, 20% of Democrats, 70% of Republicans, and 38% of Independents said they were pro-life; 75% of Democrats, 25% of Republicans and 55% of Independents were pro-choice.

Among those who identify as “pro-life,” 24% said that abortion should never be legal, and another 22% said that it should be legal only to save the life of the mother.

Slightly more than four out of 10 people who called themselves pro-life said that abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

When specifically asked if abortion should be banned after 20-weeks gestation, when fetuses are capable of feeling pain, nearly 60% of respondents said they would support or strongly support a ban. Slightly under one-third of respondents said they would be opposed or strongly opposed to a ban.

For the first time, Marist surveyed what respondents would like to see the Supreme Court do if Roe v. Wade were to be reconsidered.

Three out of 10 respondents said that they would like to see the Supreme Court hold abortion to be legal without restriction, as Roe decided.

Nearly half of respondents — 49% — said they would like the Supreme Court to allow states to make certain restrictions, similar to the legal framework pre-Roe.

Only 16% said that they would like the Supreme Court to make abortion illegal in all circumstances.

The poll did show that Americans largely disagree with the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion, both in the United States and abroad.

Three out of four people surveyed said that they were opposed or strongly opposed to the use of public money to pay for abortion abroad, and 54% said they were opposed to tax dollars being used to pay for abortion at all.

In the United States, the Mexico City Policy prevents the use of U.S. funds from being given to organizations that provide or promote abortion abroad, and the Hyde Amendment prevents the use of taxpayer money from being spent on abortions domestically.

The Democratic Party has made the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and overturning the Mexico City Policy part of its party platform.