New Poll Reveals Real Dividing Line Between Abortion Supporters and Opponents

New Poll Reveals Real Dividing Line Between Abortion Supporters and Opponents

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Across nearly every faith and in all but five states, a majority of Americans support at least some access to abortion. That’s a major conclusion of a new massive survey of 22,000 people from the Public Religion Research Institute. 

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But the survey’s most revealing insight is the group in which anti-abortion sentiment remains strongest: white Christian nationalists. 

On a state-by-state level, the more prone to Christian nationalism, the less likely PRRI found support for abortion. Statistically, it’s Mississippi at one end and Oregon at the other. Unsurprisingly, that spectrum also overlays neatly with the efforts to protect or scrap access to abortion.

It’s a quiet chasm, but one that speaks to the latent threat of white Christian nationalism that Democrats and more than a few Republicans have been reluctant to confront head-on.

“Clearly, the higher the score for Christian nationalism among state residents, there’s a clear linkage in terms of attitudes about abortion,” PRRI’s president Melissa Deckman told me this week ahead of the data’s public release. “It shows how clearly the Christian nationalist influences are making policy, and it’s really pretty stark.”

Just 25% of those identified as Christian nationalists say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. White Christian nationalists were the most opposed to abortion, with a scant 29% weighing in on the side of abortion. Hispanic Christian nationalists (34%) and Black Christian nationalists (59%) were more supportive of abortion rights. Among those who completely rejected the tenets of Christian nationalism, the question of abortion rights is almost unanimously—93%—supported.

The D.C. Brief has previously flagged the pernicious elements of Christian nationalism—specifically, white Christian nationalism—and its bleed into U.S. politics. The theology that the United States is a uniquely divined project that has its governance and godliness intertwined and blessed has been used aplenty by some of the most cynical political artists in the nation, and to great effect. A politician who can claim to be on a mission from God is not subject to the same level of fact-checking as one running on mortal rationality.

In states with total bans on abortion, a staggering 53% of residents say they still support abortion rights in most or all cases. Put plainly: this aspect of democracy is not working, and it reveals a huge gap in our understanding of our neighbors.

The threat here is not just to reproductive rights but also to the GOP brand for a generation. “I’m someone who studies Gen Z, and I’m telling you, Gen Z women are not buying anything that the GOP is selling these days. Part of it’s linked to their stance on abortion and LGBT rights,” Deckman says. 

Nationally, among all Americans, there is a whopping 50-point gap between Democrats and Republicans. A solid 86% of Democrats say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while just 36% of Republicans say the same. To say the parties are working off different playbooks is an understatement. They’re not even working with the same set of rules.

Abortion is shaping up to a defining issue in this campaign season. In a recent interview with TIME, former President Donald Trump basically confirmed a newfound nihilistic approach in which he pledged to leave it entirely to the states to decide their own levels of abortion access and regulation. But his strongest supporters are cheering on the crackdowns across red states. Florida, for instance, on Wednesday put into effect a ban on abortions at the six-week mark, ending its stand-alone status as an abortion haven in the South. The next closest state Southerners can turn to for the procedure is Virginia.

Yet, as suggested in earlier surveys and confirmed yet again with PRRI’s data, only five states remain where supporters of abortion rights are in the minority: North Dakota and South Dakota at 47%; Arkansas at 46%; and Idaho and Utah logging in at 45% support. 

In the seven battleground states that are expected to define the presidential race—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—a collective 64% of residents say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Even red states are seeing a whiff of goodwill toward abortion rights; 57% of residents there say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, including 59% of women. 

For decades, Democratic strategists treated abortion as a third-rail of an issue. Once Roe v Wade fell, that stopped being the case. Members of most religious traditions now see abortion as a part of the healthcare system that should be legal in most or all cases. Of the survey’s 16 breakout categories—including unaffiliated—just four have majority net disapproval of abortion rights. As expected, white evangelical Protestants top the roster with 72% saying abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, follow at 69%, Hispanic Protestants say the same at 58%, and Jehovah’s Witnesses weigh in at 54%.

But Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Muslims alike are all fine leaving the decision with patients and their health providers. That may explain why, when put to voters, protecting abortion rights has prevailed at the ballot box every time it’s been put there since the Dobbs decision. And it’s why, heading into the final push toward November, most Democrats have decided that abortion is not an inconvenient distraction best left on the shelf. White Christian nationalism and its loud minority may now be the albatross on U.S. policy making, but it’s a pretty useful demagogue, too.

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