According to a new Marist College/Knights of Columbus poll, a strong majority of Americans and even a narrow majority of Americans who identify as “pro-choice” support substantial restrictions on abortion, including limiting abortion to the first trimester or not using taxpayer money to fund abortions.
Overall, the poll found that 74 percent of Americans support one or more such restriction, including 54 percent of those who call themselves “pro-choice.”
“The labels really don’t get at people’s actual positions” in abortion debates, said Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll, in a Monday conference call with reporters.
“Generally people are only given two options,” Carvalho said, referring to identifying as either pro-choice or pro-life, “but the reality is more complicated.”
The poll was conducted Dec. 12-19, 2016, in English and Spanish among a random sample of American adults.
The poll found that 83 percent of Americans oppose the use of tax dollars to support abortion in other countries, and more than six in 10 oppose the use of tax dollars to fund abortions in the United States. This includes almost nine in 10 Trump supporters, 87 percent, and even nearly four in 10 Clinton supporters, 39 percent.
In terms of limiting abortion to the first trimester, a majority of Clinton supporters, 55 percent, and more than nine in 10 Trump supporters, 91 percent, say they would approve.
Nearly six in 10 Americans say limiting abortion to the first trimester is either an immediate priority or an important one. That total includes 78 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats. Among those who say they’re pro-choice, 44 percent say restricting abortion is an immediate priority or important.
Among those who want restrictions, 74 percent also want the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of those restrictions. According to the poll-takers, this equates to about 55 percent of Americans who support such action by the Court.
“There is a consensus in America in favor of significant abortion restrictions, and this common ground exists across party lines, and even among significant numbers of those who are pro-choice,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson.
“This poll shows that large percentages of Americans, on both sides of the aisle, are united in their opposition to the status quo as it relates to abortion on demand. This is heartening, and can help start a new national conversation on abortion.”
The Knights of Columbus are Crux’s principal partner.
The findings are broken down by multiple categories, including religious affiliation. For Catholics, results are further refined to distinguish between “practicing” Catholics, meaning those who attend Mass at least once a month, and non-practicing.
Among Catholics, 60 percent of practicing Catholics identified as pro-life, as opposed to 37 percent who said they’re pro-choice. For non-practicing Catholics, the totals were inverted – 64 percent said they’re pro-choice, and 31 percent pro-life.
Among both practicing and non-practicing Catholics, large shares support abortion restrictions, especially the idea of limiting abortion to the first trimester of pregnancy. Seventy-four percent of practicing Catholics, and 68 percent of those who are non-practicing, also would like to see the Supreme Court rule to allow such a restriction.
Seventy-one percent of practicing Catholics, and 57 percent of the non-practicing, either oppose or strongly oppose using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and more than 80 percent of both groups oppose using public money to fund abortions overseas.
Practicing Catholics overwhelmingly believe that abortion does more harm than good for the woman involved, 62 to 18 percent with the remainder unsure, while the margin is much narrower among the non-practicing – 40 percent say abortion improves a woman’s life, while 42 percent say it does more harm than good.
Seventy-five percent of practicing Catholics agree that, apart from whether it should be legal, abortion is morally wrong, with 51 percent of non-practicing Catholics saying it’s morally wrong and 48 percent saying it’s morally acceptable.
There’s strong support among both groups for the idea that government regulations should not require businesses and their insurers to cover abortions, with 66 percent of practicing Catholics and 59 percent of the non-practicing saying the government should not have that power.
Andrew Walter, Vice President for Communications and Strategic Planning for the Knights of Columbus, argued the results point to a “real groundswell of support” for limiting, if not eliminating, abortion rights.
“The labels don’t correlate with the policy positions,” Walther said. “Many people who identify as pro-choice support what’s usually seen as pro-life legislation.”