Democratic beliefs on abortion

Republicans' Views on Abortion - by Demographic, Regional Subgroups, 2008-2011 AggregationPRINCETON, NJ - As the 2012 Republican presidential contenders begin to hone their campaign messages and court social-issues voters, a Gallup analysis reveals the striking homogeneity of rank-and-file Republicans on abortion. Roughly two-thirds of Republicans across most major gender, age, educational, and income lines describe themselves as "pro-life, " while about a quarter call themselves "pro-choice."

Republicans' abortion views show slightly greater variability by region of the country. Those living in the East and West are less unified around the pro-life label than those in the South or Midwest, although even on the coasts, it is the majority view.

These findings are based on an aggregation of Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs surveys from 2008 through 2011, encompassing 1, 270 Republicans.

Class Differences in Democrats' Abortion Views

Republicans' broad unity on abortion contrasts with Democrats' more variable support for the pro-choice label. According to interviews with 1, 362 Democrats since 2008 as part of Gallup's Values and Beliefs surveys, differences in Democrats' views on the issue are particularly seen along socio-economic lines.

Whereas Democrats with a high school education or less tilt pro-life by 47% to 43%, the pro-choice view rises to 68% among those with at least some college education and to 85% among those with postgraduate education. Similarly, adherence to the pro-choice label among Democrats rises from 43% in the lowest income group to 79% in the highest one.

Like Republicans' abortion views, Democrats' views also vary somewhat by region, with Democrats in the West being the most unified around the pro-choice position, and those in the South, the least. Also similar to Republicans, Democrats exhibit no gender gap on abortion. There is a modest generational gap, with Democrats 55 and older being slightly less likely than younger Democrats to describe themselves as pro-choice.

Black Democrats are slightly less likely than white Democrats to be pro-choice, although the majority of both groups take the pro-abortion-rights position. The 2008-2011 Gallup dataset contains too few black Republicans for a comparable look at racial views on abortion within that party.

Religion a Factor in Abortion Views in Both Parties

Abortion views are closely intertwined with religion, and that is seen within both parties just as it is among the public at large. The percentage of Republicans who are pro-life is 38 points higher among those who seldom or never attend church or another place of worship compared with those who attend weekly, 46% vs. 84%. A nearly identical gap in pro-choice support is seen among Democrats between non-churchgoers and regular attendees, 77% vs. 40%.

Bottom Line

Consistent with the solid "pro-life" stance of rank-and-file Republicans, the emerging Republican presidential field is dominated by anti-abortion candidates and potential candidates, with all of the current top-tier names (at 5% or better in Gallup polling) embracing the pro-life label. This includes Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, and Michele Bachmann. The primary differences among them on the issue generally have to do with whether they oppose all abortions or would make an exception for rape and incest.

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