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 Democratic Party.
The Marist 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 leftist candidates.
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.
Originally published on The Resurgent