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Gallup polls indicate more Americans support gay rights, while fewer identify as 'pro-choice'

A same-sex couple hold hands during a sit-in protest.
A same-sex couple hold hands during a sit-in protest.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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According to the latest Gallup polls, public opinion on gay marriage and birth control has become increasingly more liberal. In 1997, Americans were evenly split as to whether gay marriage should be legal. Today, 63 percent say it should be legal, compared with 31 percent who say it shouldn’t be. As for birth control, 82 percent of U.S. Catholics and 89 percent of respondents nationally say it’s morally acceptable. This is far greater than last year, despite the political controversy surrounding the issue in this political cycle.

The real eyebrow-raising numbers from Gallup came Wednesday on the abortion issue. They indicate that a record low of 41 percent of Americans call themselves “pro-choice” while 50 percent now call themselves “pro-life.”

Does this mean that a significant number of Americans have changed their views about when women should and shouldn’t be legally allowed to have an abortion? Probably not. Gallup did ask that as well and it appears attitudes have changed very little in that regard. So what gives? Well, it might have to do with Gallup’s phrasing of the question. There are people who believe abortion should be legal in some situations, but not all, who now call themselves “pro-life.”

On the other hand, some with similar views called themselves “pro-choice” in previous polls. What’s behind that change? How do you define these labels? Even if support for abortion is holding its ground, support for contraception and same sex-marriage are soaring. What is it about abortion that continues to alienate people?