Stability remains the name of the game in U.S. abortion attitudes. Half of Americans say abortion should be “legal only under certain circumstances,” identical to a year ago, while 29% still say it should be legal in all circumstances. The smallest proportion — 18% this year vs. 19% in 2016 — say it should be illegal in all circumstances.
The dispersion of abortion views today, with the largest segment of Americans favoring the middle position, is broadly similar to what Gallup has found in four decades of measurement.
Also, as is the case today, more Americans typically have thought abortion should be completely legal than completely illegal. The proportions have varied from a 20-percentage-point advantage for the always-legal position in 1994 to a virtual tie at several points. This year’s 11-point edge for the always-legal position is similar to its average nine-point lead across the full trend.
Gallup also asks those who say abortion should be legal in certain circumstances whether those should be most circumstances or only a few, and, by nearly a 3-to-1 ratio, they choose only a few, 36% vs. 13%. Thus, the slight majority of Americans (54%) favor curtailing abortion rights — saying abortion should be illegal or legal in only a few circumstances. Slightly fewer, 42%, want access to abortion to be unrestricted or legal in most circumstances.
The 2017 results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 3-7.