The rapid acceptance of same-sex marriage, and the growing acceptance of marijuana legalization, has a lot to do with the changing demographics of the country. As a class, young people are just more tolerant and less prohibitionist than their older counterparts.
To a degree, this extends to abortion. According to the most recent survey from the Pew Forum, 68 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, as opposed to 27 percent who want to see it overturned. The only other group as supportive of Roe are 50 to 64 year olds, who were teenagers or young adults at the time that Roe was decided.
It’s worth noting that while Millenials are broadly supportive of Roe, relatively few know that the ruling has to do with abortion:
What’s more, the public remains deply divided on the moral question of abortion: 47 percent say that it’s morally wrong, while 13 percent say its acceptable, and 27 percent disagree that it’s a moral issue at all.
This, I think, points to something that’s overlooked in discussions of the “culture war.” For as much as the public has moved on same-sex marriage and marijuana, it remains static on abortion, even as it grows more tolerant and secular.
It’s not hard to understand why. Fundamental issues are at stake in the abortion debate: The autonomy of women, the value of life, and what to do when the two conflict. There’s no way to resolve these disputes in a diverse, pluralistic society, and as such, odds are good that we’ll always have political conflict over abortion.
My guess is that we’ll also keep the asymmetry of interest that defines our current abortion debate. After all, it will always be easier to energize deep opposition than motivate broad support.