Pro-choice makes a comeback

Two years ago, Gallup released a poll that found 51% of Americans calling themselves “pro-life” and 42% “pro-choice.” It was the first time a majority of U.S. adults had identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking the question, and the nine-point margin was easily the largest lead opponents of abortion rights have seen.

Soon after, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski pointed to these numbers as evidence that “real” Americans approve of Sarah Palin. “Look at where people stand on life,” Brzezinski said. “Look what real Americans think.”

I guess fake Americans are making a comeback.

Many, including me, argued at the time that the result was probably a fluke, which would soon be corrected. And sure enough, that’s what has happened.

Americans are closely divided between those calling themselves “pro-choice” and those who are “pro-life,” now 49% and 45%, respectively, in Gallup’s 2011 update on U.S. abortion attitudes. This is similar to a year ago, when 45% were “pro-choice” and 47% “pro-life.” However, it is the first time since 2008 that the “pro-choice” position has had the numerical advantage on this Gallup trend.

Yep, self-identified pro-choice Americans now outnumber their rivals for the first time since 2008. The cultural shift conservatives saw emerging two years ago didn’t happen.

Steve M. makes a compelling case that the polls bounce around in reaction to election results:

[I]f the government seems pro-choice, fence-sitters, not thinking the issue is up for debate, drift into the anti-abortion camp. But if we elect anti-abortion candidates, suddenly those fence-sitters know that they could really lose their abortion rights, and they go back to declaring themselves pro-choice.

Which is exactly what’s happening now, after big victories by the GOP and anti-abortion legislative initiatives all over the country.

That’s as good an explanation as any, though I’m still waiting for Mika Brzezinski to offer an updated analysis letting me know what “real Americans think.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.