Skip to Content

Abortion Divides Americans More Than Any Other Issue

Fifty percent of Americans consider abortion morally wrong, according to Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll.

This was the most controversial of 21 issues in the survey of 1,009 Americans, who were asked whether they believe each is morally acceptable or morally wrong. Seventy-three percent of respondents who identified themselves as liberal or very liberal said abortion is acceptable, compared with 23% of respondents who identified as conservative or very conservative. The 50 percentage-point difference is the widest in the poll, which was conducted May 1-12.

A number of states including Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Ohio have passed bills to limit abortion — all have or are expected to face legal challenges. On Friday, a judge in Missouri allowed the state’s last abortion clinic to remain opened for now after the clinic prevailed in an initial legal skirmish over renewing its license.

Doctor-assisted suicide and gay and lesbian relationships are the second and third issues with the largest divergence: 36 percentage points for each.

A majority of both liberals and conservatives agree six of the issues, including birth control, are morally acceptable, although there are differences in the approval rates. The gap is 33 percentage points for sex between an unmarried man and woman.

The survey found just three issues are viewed as morally acceptable by a majority of conservatives but less than half of liberals: the death penalty, buying and wearing clothes made of animal fur, and medical testing on animals.

And seven are considered acceptable by liberals but not conservatives.

Both groups said the remaining five issues are morally wrong.

While Gallup said Americans tend to have an increasingly liberal take on behaviors in the survey, abortion is one of the few that has shown almost no change over time, along with birth control — which respondents overwhelmingly see as acceptable — and extramarital affairs, which they continue to believe are wrong.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—How civil rights and liberties activists are taking on Capitol Hill

—What exactly is ranked-choice voting?

21 abortion restrictions have already been enacted in 2019

—Should Title VII civil rights protections include the LGBTQ community?

Human trafficking is an epidemic in the U.S. It’s also big business

Get up to speed on your morning commute with Fortune’s CEO Daily newsletter.