One of the few cultural battles on which conservatives have
steadily gained ground is abortion. Even though the Supreme Court has yet to
overturn Roe v. Wade, pro-life
conservatives have been winning the battle of ideas as more Americans favor
restrictions on abortion and identify with the pro-life viewpoint. Now a shocking
poll shows that pro-lifers have even made significant inroads into the
poll conducted in February 2019 shows that respondents are split evenly on
the question of whether abortion should be legal, but the most surprising part
of the poll is that a third of Democrats, 34 percent, identify as pro-life.
Further, 15 percent of Democrats said that abortion should never be allowed
under any circumstances and a total of 35 percent said that it should only be
allowed in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.
Sixty-one percent of Democrats identified as pro-choice, but
a majority favored restrictions on abortion. Only 22 percent said that abortion
should be available at any time while 13 percent said it should be legal within
the first six months of the pregnancy.
On the Republican side, the numbers were almost exactly reversed.
Sixty-seven percent of Republicans identified as pro-life while 29 percent said
that they were pro-choice.
There are some cautions about the poll, however. First, the
poll showed a 14-point jump in the share of pro-life Democrats in a one-month
span. Any sudden large shift in poll numbers should be regarded with
skepticism. Additionally, the poll’s sample size of 1,008 adults is too small
to make its findings conclusive. Subsequent polling will need to verify the shift
in Democratic attitudes before I am convinced.
Nevertheless, the poll’s findings do offer hope that the
pro-life segment of the Democratic Party is growing. While the poll doesn’t
offer explanations for the sharp increase in Democratic pro-lifers, there are a
couple of interesting possibilities.
First, the poll was conducted between Feb. 12 and 17. This
was in the middle of the controversy over New York’s law allowing full-term
abortion and the debate over a similar law proposed by Democrats in Virginia.
It may be that the publicity generated by the lax New York law has persuaded
some Democrats that more restrictions on abortion are needed.
Another possibility is that some pro-life voters may be
leaving the Republican Party and identifying as Democrats. In particular, younger
voters tend to be more pro-life, but the young are also deserting the GOP
in droves. In 2018, young voters went Democrat by a 35-point
margin compared to about 20 points for the previous two elections.
A shift in moderate voters toward the Democrats would also
have implications for the presidential race. If more moderate voters take part
in Democratic primaries next year, it will likely temper the chances of radical
Whatever the reason, if Democrats are becoming more
pro-life, it is a good thing. However, since there is still a litmus test on
abortion for Democratic officeholders, any shift in views on abortion by the
party’s base is unlikely to be felt in
policy changes anytime soon. As President Trump alienates more moderate and
independent voters, Democrats would be wise to soften their stance on abortion
to make it easier for the millions of
pro-life voters who are disenchanted with Trump Republicans to cross over.