The vast majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest and when the life or health of the mother is at risk, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. That finding puts most Americans at odds with the 13 Republican Senate candidates who have said they support making abortion illegal in all cases.
According to the survey, at least 70 percent of respondents support keeping abortion legal for all of the three scenarios. In the individual cases, 74 percent said abortion should be legal in cases where the mother's life is endangered by pregnancy, 70 percent said it should be legal when the mother's health is endangered, and 74 percent said it should be legal when a woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape or incest. No more than 14 percent of respondents said that abortion should be illegal in all cases.
Those findings are similar to those of a CNN survey conducted in August, which found even higher percentages saying abortion should be legal in cases when a woman's life was in danger (88 percent), when her health was in danger (83 percent) or when she was a victim of rape or incest (83 percent). A higher percentage of respondents to the HuffPost/YouGov poll said they were not sure, and similarly small percentage of respondents to the CNN polls said abortion should be illegal in all cases.
In the HuffPost/YouGov poll, a separate sampling found 27 percent of respondents said they believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances, 22 percent said that it should generally be legal but with some restrictions, and 30 percent said it should be illegal except in special circumstances. Fifteen percent said it should always be illegal -- similar to the percentage who said abortion should be illegal even when a woman's life or health was in danger or when she was the victim of rape or incest.
Women in the sample which asked the more general question were more likely than men to say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases -- 52 percent for women versus 44 percent for men. But women asked the three questions about abortion in certain cases were less likely than men to say that abortion should be legal in those cases.
Because these questions were asked of different sets of respondents, this discrepancy could be a result of variation between the two samples, or it could be that women who oppose abortion are less likely than men to support exceptions. Women in the sample asked the more general question were more likely than men to believe abortion should be legal in all cases, but only by a one percentage point margin, which is not a large enough margin to say with certainty that this would be true of the general population, because of sampling error.
Respondents to the poll were also more likely to oppose another key aspect of social conservatives' agenda: defunding Planned Parenthood. A 48 percent to 32 percent plurality of respondents opposed cutting federal government funding for Planned Parenthood clinics. Female respondents were more likely to oppose cutting off Planned Parenthood funding by a 27 percentage point margin, whereas for men the margin was only 5 percentage points. The survey found that more than a quarter of women (28 percent) and 10 percent of men say they've visited a Planned Parenthood clinic personally for health care services.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted from Oct. 26-28 among 2,000 U.S. adults using a sample drawn from YouGov's opt-in online panel that was selected to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion, and church attendance. The margin of error for the complete sample was 2.8 percentage points.
The questions about legality of abortion were each asked of half the sample: 999 respondents in sample A saw the question about whether abortion should generally be legal, and 1,001 respondents in sample B saw the three questions about whether abortion should be legal under specific circumstances.