Although young voters are overwhelmingly liberal on social issues such as same-sex marriage and drug legalization, research released Thursday suggests the opposite is true when it comes to abortion.
Polling and research conducted by the Institute for Pro-Life Advancement, an initiative of Students for Life of America, found that the majority of millennials support increasing restrictions on abortion even if many of them do not identify as “pro-life.”
The survey found that 53 percent of millennials believe abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances, with 17 percent saying abortion should never be legal and 36 percent saying it should be legal only in extreme cases such as rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
That is up 9 percentage points from a 2012 survey conducted by Students for Life, which found 44 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds tended to back pro-life policies and 44 percent pro-choice policies.
In the most recent poll, only 17 percent said abortion should be legal at any point in a pregnancy — the position held by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and espoused by Planned Parenthood.
Despite their policy preferences, only 36 percent of millennials self-identify as pro-life, compared with 48 percent who said they were more likely to identify as pro-choice.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, said the problem with the pro-life movement is not with its ideas but with the way they are branded in the public square.
“Over the past 10 years, the image of the pro-life movement has trended younger and more mainstream, but the ‘pro-life’ brand still carries an image which many people don’t want to associate themselves, despite their views on abortion,” Ms. Hawkins said in a statement. “Planned Parenthood would have the nation believe that young women are fighting with them on their extreme abortion agenda but that’s not the case.”
Because of confusion about the “pro-life” moniker, Students for Life stopped using the term in its campus advocacy. Instead, the group began asking questions that get to the heart of the matter, such as where lines on abortion should be drawn and why.
In addition to the polling, the Institute for Pro-Life Advancement issued several white papers examining how to bring millennials further into the pro-life fold.
Faced with a similar brand problem, the pro-choice movement has made inroads in recent years marketing itself as pro-women. But researchers at the Institute for Pro-Life Advancement said abortion rights advocates don’t have a monopoly on that market.
Pointing to Students for Life’s #WomenBetrayed campaign, researchers said the pro-life movement can appeal to millennials and centrists by pointing to the harm inflicted on women by abortion and continuing to expose unsavory practices at Planned Parenthood.
In the wake of the Center for Medical Progress video series, which caught top Planned Parenthood officials on tape discussing what was portrayed as a fetal body parts trafficking operation, millennials are much less supportive of public funding for Planned Parenthood.
A plurality, 47 percent, said Planned Parenthood should receive at least some funding, compared with 36 percent who thought it should be curtailed. But the percentage of millennials supportive of Planned Parenthood is down by 19 points since last year, when a Quinnipiac University poll found 66 percent of young people supported taxpayer funding for the abortion provider.
“When Americans see what happens behind the closed doors of Planned Parenthood facilities across the country, their support drops dramatically as they realize Planned Parenthood’s modus operandi is incongruous with the image they project of being an advocate for women’s health,” one of the white papers concludes.
The Institute for Pro-Life Advancement poll surveyed 803 millennials Feb. 2-10. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.