Religion, not gender, is the best predictor of views on abortion


S SHOCKED BY A proposed Supreme Court opinion that would allow states to ban abortion, American liberals are looking for silver linings. Some hope that women exasperated by the loss of Roe vs. Wade will vote en masse for the Democrats in November.

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That would endanger Republicans in swing states. However, liberal activists only focus on the gender gap at their peril: women are almost as likely as men to oppose abortion. The most trusted proponents of abortion rights are the 30% of Americans with no religious affiliation.

Views on abortion have remained fairly stable over time. Large majorities favor legal abortion in cases of rape or health risks. Since 2002, the share of respondents to the General Social Survey, a large poll, who say abortion, for whatever reason, should be legal, has risen from 40% to 54%. However, compared to the evolution of support for same-sex marriage, this increase seems modest.

Although state-level polls on abortion are rare, public opinion in each state can be estimated using demographic and geographic models in national surveys. This method shows that only 12 of the 50 states have majorities that want to ban abortion, or allow it only if the life of the mother is in danger. In contrast, 19 states have laws restricting abortion that would go into effect the day deer is reversed. They include Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin, where around 60% of people support abortion rights.

Voters likely to mourn the loss of deer can be targeted demographically. The gender gap in opinions about abortion is modest, at six percentage points. Religion and race, on the other hand, account for up to 65 points.

In a sample of 13,659 people polled by YouGov, a pollster, only 28% of white or older Hispanic evangelicals wanted abortion to be “always” or “mostly” legal. Despite opposition from the Catholic and Orthodox churches, 53% of whites and 65% of Hispanics in those groups favored abortion rights. Among agnostics and people who did not state a religion, the shares were 61% for those who did not attend college and 79% for those who did. Other significant supporters were Jews (76%) and Atheists (a hefty 92%).

American political coalitions already reflect these divisions. However, whites who are non-evangelical Protestants, or who are not affiliated with any religion and do not have a college degree, are more supportive of abortion rights than Democratic candidates. Their loyalty may now be up for grabs.

Sources: YouGov; General social survey; Pew Research Center; Caitlyn Myers


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