Social Issues, Spring 2013 Articles

Students lean in favor of abortion rights (Part 2)

Opinions by GenderLegality of Abortion

Abortion is often considered to be a “women’s issue,” as women are those affected by any legal changes in abortion policies. At N.C. State, the gender divide exists, but isn’t as great as some might expect. We find that 58% of males are in favor of abortion rights, and 67% of women say the same thing, for a 9-point gender gap. However, the gender divide increases if respondents are pushed to decide between pro-life and pro-choice, with 56% of men claiming to be pro-choice, while 72% of women call themselves pro-choice, resulting in a 16-point gender gap. These results also suggest that men are more likely than women to be in favor of abortion rights, yet consider themselves to be pro-life.

On the issue of morality, male and female students at N.C. State are in agreement: 18% of males and 21% of females consider abortion to be morally acceptable; 48% of males and 47% of females believe it to be morally wrong; and 33% of males and 32% of females believe abortion is not a moral issue. Likewise, 56% of male students believe it should legal in all or most cases, while 63% of women said the same thing.  The gap of 7 points is smaller than for the labels respondents used to describe their positions.

Pew research asked the same question about legality in their survey of adults in August 2012. That survey found that 55% of women believed abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 51% of men agreed. With the N.C. State population consisting of people mostly aged between 18-25, perhaps the different results across surveys says more about an age gap than for a gender gap.

Party ID 

Party ID tends to be highly predictive of Americans’ opinions, and abortion is no different. Among N.C. State students that identified as Republicans, 68% said they were pro-life, while 32% said pro-choice. The same percentage of Republicans called themselves anti-abortion rights vs. pro-abortion rights.  Conversely, among those that identified as Democrats, 88% said they were pro-choice, while just 12% were pro-life. Among Independents, 73% were pro-choice and 27% were pro-life. This finding is interesting given that when students who indentify as Independent are pushed to “pick a team,” 26% leaned towards the Republican Party, 35% leaned towards the Democratic party, and 38% said they lean towards neither. Even with this roughly even split, Independent students still greatly favored the pro-choice side.

Regarding the perceived morality of abortion, 77% of Republicans believe it is morally wrong, and just 9% believe it’s morally acceptable (14% believe it’s not a moral issue). For Democrats, 47% believe abortion is not a moral issue. The remainder amongst Democrats is almost evenly split on the issue, with 24% believing abortion is morally wrong and 29% seeing it as morally acceptable. This trend applies to the question of legality too.  Here, 71% of Republicans say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, and 84% of Democrats and 65% of Independents saying the exact opposite, that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

For comparison, we again look to the Pew. In an August 2012 survey, this issue of legality was not as polarized along party lines as it was among N.C. State students. That survey found that among the adult population, 57% of Republicans said it should be illegal in most or all cases, and 65% of Democrats and 54% of Independents said it should be legal in most or all cases.

Pew Research links:

N.C. State students differ from adult population

In the study done by Pew Research in August 2012, this issue of legality of abortion was not as clear cut along party lines as it was found to be among N.C. State students.


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