Younger voters, especially women, are embracing a pro-life position in surprising numbers and in sharp contrast to attitudes that held sway 15 years ago, according to a new study.
The study by Overbrook Research, a public consulting firm in Illinois, examines public opinion data from Missouri. With proportions of blacks, Catholics and union members in line with national averages, the state is viewed as "highly representative of the American electorate," the study says.
Over 30,000 survey interviews were conducted in the state between 1992 and 2006. Participants were asked: "On the debate over abortion policy, do you consider yourself to be pro-life, pro-choice or somewhere in between?" Those who gave a definitive answer were then asked how strongly they held their view.
Results in 1992 were largely in step with what study authors Christopher Blunt and Fred Steeper call the "self-interest hypothesis." Women and men under 30 were the most ardently "pro-choice" (39 percent) and the least likely to be strongly "pro-life"( 23 percent).
Today, by contrast, among the current generation of 18- to 29-year-olds, 36 percent say they are strongly "pro-life," while just 18 percent say they are strongly "pro-choice," the study authors said.
The trend was particularly evident among women in that age bracket. Forty 40 percent identify themselves as strongly "pro-life" and only 20 percent as strongly "pro-choice."
The data reverses a two-to-one ratio that was evident in 1992, the study noted.
Where previous generations may have been inclined to "divorce sex from its consequences," new voters are entering the electorate at a time when medical advances highlight development in the womb and when public attention is focused on the "gruesome procedure" of partial birth abortion, the authors argued.
Blunt, who is president of Overbrook Research, told Cybercast News Service in an interview that "Generation Y" voters have a very different frame of reference on abortion now than was evident in 1992.
"The most surprising and compelling findings we have are on young people," he said. "They've grown up with high-quality ultrasound images of unborn babies, and their passage into adulthood coincides with the ascendance of partial-birth abortion as the issue's dominant frame."