WASHINGTON — Support for legal abortion in the U.S. has edged up to its highest level in the past two years, with an Associated Press-GfK poll showing an apparent increase in support among Democrats and Republicans alike over the last year.
Nearly six in 10 Americans — 58 per cent — now think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 51 per cent who said so at the beginning of the year, according to the AP-GfK survey. It was conducted after three people were killed last month in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic that offers abortion.
Abortion will undoubtedly be up for discussion during the 2016 presidential campaign. All of the Republican presidential candidates say they favour restricting abortion rights. The Democratic candidates support broad abortion rights.
Interest in the issue picked up this year after anti-abortion activists began releasing undercover videos they said showed Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs. Planned Parenthood, a national women's health organization that has long been a lightning rod in America's abortion debate, said any payments were legally permitted reimbursements for the costs of donating organs to researchers, and it has since stopped accepting even that money. Republicans have sought to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and several Republican-governed states have tried to block government payments for health care services provided by the organization to poor Americans.
Abortion has continued to divide Americans since a landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling known as Roe v. Wade affirmed the constitutional right to the procedure. Some states have enacted limits on abortions.
While support for legal abortion edged up to 40 per cent among Republicans in this month's poll, from 35 per cent in January, the survey found that Republicans remain deeply divided on the issue: Seven in 10 conservative Republicans said they want abortion to be illegal in most or all cases; six in 10 moderate and liberal Republicans said the opposite.
Among Democrats, 76 per cent of poll respondents now think abortion should be legal all or most of the time, up slightly from 69 per cent in January.
Independents are more evenly split, with 54 per cent saying abortion should be legal all or most of the time, edging up from 43 per cent in January.
Overall, the poll found, 45 per cent of Americans have a favourable opinion of Planned Parenthood, and 30 per cent have an unfavourable opinion. A quarter said they don't know enough about the organization to say.
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,007 adults was conducted online Dec. 3-7, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.
Nancy Benac And Emily Swanson, The Associated Press