Marist Poll: Majority of Pro-Choicers Support ‘Significant Restrictions’ on Abortion

By Barbara Hollingsworth | January 23, 2017 | 2:18pm EST
A protester at the Jan. 21, 2017 pro-abortion Women's March on Washington holds a sign proclaiming she is in the majority. (AP pboto)

( –  A new Marist poll released days before the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. found that 74 percent of all Americans – including 54 percent of those who identify as pro-choice - are in favor of “significant restrictions” on abortion.

The majority supporting restrictions on abortion held “regardless of race, political party, or candidate support,” according to the poll, which was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus (KofC).

In addition, “Americans overwhelmingly oppose using tax dollars to fund abortions” both abroad (83%) and in the U.S. (61%), the poll found.

The day before the poll was released, President Donald Trump issued an executive memorandum reinstating the Mexico City Policy, which requires “nongovernmental organizations to agree as a condition of their receipt of Federal funds …[to] neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.”

The poll found that 90% of Republicans, 72% of Independents, and 58% of Democrats (including 55% who supported Hillary Clinton for president) are in favor of restrictions, ranging from limiting abortion to the first trimester, allowing abortions only in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, to not permitting abortion under any circumstances.  

Three-quarters of those polled who favor restrictions on abortion also said they want the U.S. Supreme Court to allow such restrictions, according to the poll.

An even larger majority of nearly 8 in 10 Americans (78%) also agree that “it is possible to have laws which protect both the health and well-being of the woman and the life of the unborn.”

“The issue is very complex, but what we generally tend to do is speak about just the categories of pro-life and pro-choice and force people to take a position,” Dr. Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll, told reporters during a conference call on Monday.  “But beyond the labels, people have very significant ideas that are not as simplistic as the labels suggest.”

For example, Carvalho pointed out that 58% of millennials identify as pro-choice, compared to 37% who identify as pro-life. However, when asked questions that go beyond the binary labels, 7 in 10 millennials “choose positions on abortion that include significant restrictions.”

“The labels don’t really get at what people’s positions are on these very important issues,” she said.

“The vast majority of those who identify as pro-life support legislation that restricts abortion,” Andrew Walther, vice president for communications at the KofC, added. “But a substantial number of those who identify as pro-choice – 4 to 6 in 10 – support the same legislation.

“Those who tend to be pro-life are very, very united. But those who identify as pro-choice tend to support restrictions as well,” he pointed out.

“Over and over, we see very, very strong support for legislation that is typically identified as pro-life.”

Other findings from the poll:

  • A greater percentage of African Americans (79%) and Latinos (79%) favor significant restrictions on abortion than whites (71%);
  • Half (50%) of all Americans believe abortion “has a negative, long-term impact on a woman’s life,” compared to 31% who think the procedure “improves a woman’s life”;
  • 52% of Americans identify as pro-choice; 42% identify as pro-life; and 6% are “unsure”’
  • 59% of all Americans think abortion is “morally wrong (including 80% of Trump supporters and 37% of Clinton supporters), while 39% believe it is “morally acceptable”;
  • 59% (including 4 in 10 who identify as pro-choice) say restricting abortion to the first trimester except to save the life of the mother should be either an “immediate” (34%) or an “important” (25%) priority for legislators;
  • 59% say businesses and insurers with moral objections to abortion should not be required to pay for them;
  • 60% say medical professionals who have moral objections to abortion should not be legally compelled to provide them.

The Marist Poll telephone survey of 2,729 adults was conducted between Dec. 12-19, 2016. It has a ±1.9% margin of error.


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