Gallup just released a new poll on abortion.  Historically, more Americans have identified themselves as “pro-choice” than “pro-life.”  This trend reversed in 2009.  For example, last year 47% of American adults identified themselves as “pro-life,” and 45% identified themselves as “pro-choice.”  The new poll indicates that the tables have reversed themselves again.  Now a slight majority self-identify with the pro-choice label (49% vs 45%).

While labels are helpful in gauging public opinion, people have different understandings of what “pro-life” and “pro-choice” mean.  For example, someone could understand these terms to refer to one’s position on the legality of abortion, in which case a person who is personally opposed to all abortion but thinks people should have the legal right to an abortion may identify as “pro-choice.”  The real test of Americans’ views on abortion comes to light when more specific questions are asked.  For example, when asked whether abortion is morally wrong, 51% agreed while only 39% disagreed.  This confirms that many adopting the pro-choice label do so as a reflection of their political views related to abortion, not their moral views.

Consider also the question of the circumstances under which abortion should be permitted.  50% of Americans think abortion should only be legal in some circumstances.  Of that number, 61% think it should only be legal in a few circumstances (31.5% of Americans).  22% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.  That means 53.5% of Americans reject the current Roe and Doe abortion-on-demand law.  Only 27% of Americans think women should have the right to get an abortion under any circumstances, for whatever reason.  Clearly, America is more pro-life than the average “pro-life vs. pro-choice” polls reveal.

Another interesting finding from the Gallup poll is that men and women have nearly identical views on abortion.  This is in contrast to abortion supporters who paint a picture of pro-life supporters as consisting primarily of white males.  Not so.