WASHINGTON (RNS) Support for abortion is declining across the country, with Americans now evenly divided on whether it should be legal, a new report shows.
In 2007 and 2008, supporters of legal abortion more clearly outnumbered opponents, but recent surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 47 percent now say it should be legal in all or most cases and 44 percent believe it should be illegal all or most of the time.
Those figures represent a shift away from support for abortion rights in previous years, when 54 percent of respondents supported legal abortion and 40 percent who thought abortion should be illegal.
Researchers found a broad range of Americans with significantly less support for abortion, including white mainline Protestants and white Catholics who attend worship services at least weekly, and Jews.
While increasing percentages of Republicans are opposed to legal abortion, Democrats now are more likely to be undecided.
Pollsters found an increase in Americans who agree that reducing abortions is a good idea, from 59 percent in 2005 to 65 percent this year.
The report, released Thursday (Oct. 1) jointly with the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, involved a total national sample of 4,013 adults and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. The sample was based on phone interviews conducted in August.
A separate report released Thursday by the group Catholics for Choice found that 48 percent of Catholic registered voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to 37 percent who thought it should be legal in a few instances, and 14 percent who said it should never be legal.
Slightly more than two-thirds (68 percent) of those surveyed said they disagreed that, as Catholics, they should completely oppose health care reform if it includes abortion coverage.
That survey of 932 Catholic voters by the Washington research firm Belden Russonello and Stewart had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
By Adelle M. Banks
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