Fewer than two in 10 Americans support the Republican Party draft platform’s call for a ban on all abortions with no exceptions. However, support for keeping abortion generally legal has slipped slightly, to 53 percent, according to the latest ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll.
Support for legal abortion is seven points below its 1995 level, while opposition is seven points higher. While 53 percent now favor legal abortion in all or most cases, 43 percent oppose it. That compares to a 60-36 percent division five years ago.
Roughly equal numbers take the most uncompromising views: 17 percent say abortion should be illegal in all cases, as the draft Republican platform suggests. And 20 percent say it should be legal in all cases.
Views on abortion customarily are similar among women and men. In this poll, men are a bit more apt than women to favor legal abortion, 56 percent to 50 percent. Opposition to legal abortion has risen slightly among both groups since 1995.
Most Republicans (54 percent) and conservatives (63 percent) oppose legal abortion; most Democrats, independents, moderates and liberals support it.
Abortion continues to rate low on the public’s priority list in the 2000 campaign. Forty-eight percent of Americans say the issue is very important in their choice of candidate, placing it 14th out of 17 issues tested.
The appointment of Supreme Court justices — a pressing issue for activists on both sides of the abortion debate — also ranks low. Only 44 percent say it’s a top priority, ranking it 15th of the 17 issues tested.
Those who think that abortion should be illegal rate it a much higher priority than do those who say it should be legal. More than three-fourths of those who think it should always be illegal say abortion is “very important” in their vote, compared to only 46 percent of those who say it should always be legal.
Ratings of the importance of Supreme Court justices does not vary across these groups, suggesting the public is not connecting court appointments with the abortion issue.
Abortion-rights proponents are much more likely to favor Democratic candidate Al Gore, while opponents favor Republican candidate George W. Bush. Gore supports legal abortion; Bush opposes it except in cases of rape, incest or where the woman’s life is in danger.
But overall, the two run even in public trust to handle the issue. That’s a shift since April, when Gore had a seven-point advantage. Bush is favored by a nine-point margin when it comes to appointing Supreme Court justices.
This ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone July 20-23 among a random national sample of 1,228 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Field work by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.