Thousands of people from across the country gathered in Washington today for the annual March for Life, the world’s largest anti-abortion rally that in 2014 marks 41 years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that established the legality of abortion. Public opinion on abortion has remained relatively stable during the past few decades. In 2013, PRRI found Americans who believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases are outnumbered by those who say it should be legal, 42 percent to 54 percent. And today, advocates for making abortion illegal are re-vamping their efforts to recruit and mobilize young people to carry on the cause. But how does the profile of younger Americans who oppose abortion compare with that of their older counterparts?
Overall, roughly 4-in-10 (41 percent) younger Americans (ages 18 to 29) believe abortion should be illegal, compared to half (50 percent) of older Americans (ages 65 and older). Of young Americans who oppose abortion, fewer are white Christians* (37 percent) than the nearly 8-in-10 (78 percent) who make up the group of senior Americans who oppose abortion. This includes fewer white evangelical Protestants (16 percent vs. 43 percent), fewer white Catholics (8 percent vs. 20 percent) and roughly the same number of white mainline Protestants (13 percent vs. 15 percent). Among those who oppose abortion, younger Americans are more likely than senior Americans to be Hispanic Catholics (13 percent) or Hispanic Protestants (9 percent) than seniors who oppose abortion (2 percent and 1 percent, respectively).
Younger Americans who believe abortion should be illegal are about as likely to be female as male (51 percent vs. 49 percent), while their senior American counterparts are composed of a disproportionate number of women (57 percent vs. 43 percent).
Finally, younger Americans who believe abortion should be illegal are slightly less likely to report holding a high school education or less (50 percent) than their older counterparts (57 percent).
Americans who oppose abortion today look significantly different from their older counterparts. They’re less white, less religious, and have attained higher levels of education. As the anti-abortion movement ramps up efforts to recruit a new generation of advocates, these changing demographics will demand new strategies.
* This calculation of white Christians includes white evangelical Protestants, white mainline Protestants, and white Catholics only.