New 50 State Survey: Even in the Reddest States, Less than a Quarter of Residents Support a Total Ban on Abortion
WASHINGTON — As a number of states have moved to pass laws that would make abortion illegal with virtually no exceptions, a landmark PRRI survey of over 40,000 Americans, including significant results in all 50 states, finds only 15% of Americans overall say abortion should be illegal in all cases, a number that has not changed since 2014. Notably, there is no state in which more than one-quarter of residents support a total ban on the legality of abortion.
States with the largest proportion of residents who say abortion should be illegal in all cases include: Louisiana (23%), Mississippi (22%), Arkansas (21%), Nebraska (21%), Tennessee (21%), Kentucky (20%), and North Dakota (20%). In all other states—including Alabama (19%) and Missouri (19%), where these restrictive laws have recently passed—fewer than one in five think abortion should be illegal in all cases.
Nationwide, a majority (54%) of Americans say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, with support highest in Northeastern (61%) and Western (56%) states, while in Midwestern and Southern states attitudes are more closely divided (52% and 48% respectively). Florida (56%) and Virginia (51%) are the only Southern states where a majority of residents say abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
“These results demonstrate that the Republican-controlled legislatures who have passed state laws that amount to a virtual ban on abortion are out of touch not just with Americans overall but with residents of their own states and members of their own party,” notes PRRI CEO and founder Robert P. Jones. “Few Americans, even in the most conservative states in the country, believe that abortion should be banned outright.”
Attitudes about the legality of abortion are highly stratified by party affiliation, and political partisans have moved in opposite directions over the last few years. Democrats (70%) are twice as likely as Republicans (34%) to favor the legality of abortion; six in ten (60%) Republicans are opposed to the legality of abortion, although notably only 22% of Republicans say abortion should be illegal in all cases.
The partisan gap has increased from 28 percentage points in 2014 to 36 points today. Democrats have become three percentage points more supportive of the legality of abortion (up from 67%), while Republicans have become five percentage points less supportive (down from 39%) over the last four years. This trend data is supported by self-reports of attitude change over time. Twice as many Democrats say they have become more supportive (14%) than opposed (7%) to abortion over the last five years. Republicans show the opposite pattern, with 6% reporting they have become more supportive and 13% more opposed.
Notably, young people (ages 18-29) are more likely to have changed their opinion on abortion than any other age group. Twenty-nine percent reported a change—10 percentage points higher than any other age group. Young adults have changed their opinion to be more supportive (19%) rather than opposed (10%) to abortion by nearly a margin of two to one. All other age groups report more balanced changes.
“It’s not surprising to see young adults with more malleable opinions on abortion than their elders,” notes PRRI Research Director Natalie Jackson. “As the issue of abortion is becoming salient to them as they transition from their teenage years to young adulthood, they are twice as likely to report becoming more supportive than opposed to abortion rights.”
About one in five (21%) Americans consider a political candidate’s view on abortion a deal-breaker and say they would only vote for a candidate who shares their opinion on abortion. Americans who oppose the legality of abortion (27%) are significantly more likely than those who support the legality of abortion (18%) to say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views on the issue.
Other Notable Findings
- Abortion attitudes have been largely stable over the past few years. When asked how, or if, their views on abortion have changed in the last five years, more than three-quarters of Americans (78%) said their opinion has not changed. Only 20% reported a change in opinion, with 11% becoming more supportive and 9% becoming more opposed towards abortion legality.
- Nearly six in ten (56%) African American Protestants favor the legality of abortion in all or most cases. There is a significant difference in support for the legality of abortion between African American Protestants who identify as born again or evangelical (51%) and African American Protestants who do not (67%).
- Hispanic Americans are the ethnic group with the most complex views on the legality of abortion. Slightly more oppose the legality of abortion in most or all cases (48%) than support (45%) it. Hispanics’ views on abortion are highly correlated with country of birth and religious affiliation.
- A majority (59%) of Hispanics born in the U.S. believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, compared to only 33% of Hispanics born outside of the U.S.
- Majorities of all religiously affiliated Hispanics say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, although opposition to the legality of abortion is stronger among Hispanic Protestants (58%) than among Hispanic Catholics (52%). By contrast, more than six in ten (63%) religiously unaffiliated Hispanics—a growing group that now comprises nearly one quarter (23%) of all Hispanics—say abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
- Asian Americans and American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have become less supportive of the legality of abortion, dropping from 67% in 2014 to 60% today. This is largely attributable to increasing partisan polarization, with AAPI Republicans in particular becoming more aligned with party opposition to the legality of abortion.
- The biggest intraparty divide on abortion legality is among Democrats: 82% of liberal Democrats think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 63% of moderate Democrats and 46% of conservative Democrats say the same; 54% and 53% of liberal and moderate Republicans, respectively, favor the legality of abortion, compared to only 28% of conservative Republicans.
- Americans who know someone who has had an abortion are much more likely than people who have had no such experience to think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Three in four (75%) Americans who report having had an abortion think it should be legal in most or all cases, while 60% of people who know a friend, family member or someone else who has had an abortion agree. Americans who do not know anyone who has had an abortion are evenly split between supporting and opposing abortion legality.
- More than three-quarters of Americans (77%) believe that government health insurance programs for low-income women should cover the cost of birth control. Americans are slightly less likely to support these same programs covering abortion services (46%) than they are to oppose it (48%).