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News Release | Religion, Values, and Experiences: Black and Hispanic American Attitudes on Abortion and Reproductive Issues

[07.26.2012]

New Survey: For Black Americans, Morality of Abortion Less Tightly Tied to Views of Legality than for Hispanic Americans

Black and Hispanic Americans who have a close friend or family member who has had an abortion are more likely to view abortion clinics as safe and believe that abortion should be legal 

Washington, D.C. —For black Americans, beliefs about the morality of abortion are less likely to influence views on abortion’s legality, while for Hispanic Americans, morality and legality are more closely linked. A slim majority (52 percent) of black Americans who say abortion is morally wrong nevertheless believe that it should be legal in all or most cases. Conversely, only 25 percent of Hispanic Americans who believe abortion is morally wrong agree that it should be legal in all or most cases.

The African American & Hispanic Reproductive Issues Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute and released today in a national teleconference, provides a deeper look than public opinion polls usually supply into minority communities’ perspectives on abortion, the use of contraception, and other reproductive issues. The study, which is a follow-up to the Religion, Millennials, and Abortion Survey conducted and released by PRRI in June 2011, finds that two-thirds (67 percent) of black Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to 46 percent of Hispanic Americans.

“Like most Americans, black Americans and Hispanic Americans bring a complex set of identities to the issue of abortion,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “For example, majorities of both black Americans and Hispanic Americans simultaneously identify as both ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life.’”

A variety of demographic and experiential factors shape black Americans’ and Hispanic Americans’ attitudes toward abortion. In particular, having a close friend or family member who has had an abortion is linked to the belief that abortion clinics are safe, which is in turn linked to support for the legality of abortion.

“Among black Americans and Hispanic Americans, religion plays an important role in shaping attitudes on abortion,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director. “However, the messages that both groups receive from clergy are less consequential than other religious factors, like identifying as an evangelical Christian.”

The survey also finds regardless of personal views on abortion, strong majorities of black (78 percent) and Hispanic (60 percent) Americans believe that it is possible to disagree with their religion’s teachings on abortion and still be considered a person of good standing in their faith.

Among the Findings:

A slim majority (51 percent) of black Americans and more than 6-in-10 (61 percent) Hispanic Americans believe that having an abortion is morally wrong. One-third (33 percent) of black Americans say that abortion is morally acceptable, compared to one-quarter (25 percent) of Hispanic Americans.

Relatively few black and Hispanic Americans name abortion (17 percent and 30 percent) and same-sex marriage (18 percent and 26 percent) as critical issues.

Roughly 7-in-10 black Americans and Hispanic Americans say that “not judging other people” (72 percent and 72 percent) and “showing compassion for women in difficult circumstances” (68 percent and 68 percent) are very important in shaping their views on the issue of abortion.

  • Similar numbers of Hispanic Americans but fewer black Americans say that “promoting personal responsibility” is a very important value shaping their views on the legality of abortion (70 percent vs. 63 percent).

Like the general public, majorities of black Americans and Hispanic Americans identify as both “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” More than 7-in-10 black Americans (71 percent) and Hispanic Americans (77 percent) say that the term “pro-life” describes them somewhat or very well. At the same time, three-quarters (75 percent) of black Americans and 72 percent of Hispanic Americans report that “pro-choice” describes them somewhat or very well.

Overall, black Americans and Hispanic Americans believe contraception is morally acceptable (81 percent and 79 percent) and strongly support expanding access to it.

  • Over 6-in-10 black Americans (61 percent) and Hispanic Americans (64 percent) say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide their employees with birth control at no cost.
  • Strong majorities of black Americans (92 percent) and Hispanic Americans (85 percent) favor expanding birth control access for women who cannot afford it.
  • Majorities of black Americans and Hispanic Americans also believe that methods of birth control should be available to teenagers age 16 and older without parental approval (59 percent and 54 percent).

Black Americans and Hispanic Americans also support comprehensive sex education in public schools and making HIV testing more available.

  • Around 8-in-10 black Americans (84 percent) and Hispanic Americans (79 percent) support comprehensive sex education in public schools.
  • Black Americans (93 percent) and Hispanic Americans (91 percent) are nearly unanimous in their support for making testing and screening for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases more available.

If today were Election Day, nearly 9-in-10 (87 percent) black registered voters and nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent) Hispanic registered voters say they would vote for Obama, while 3 percent of black voters and nearly one-third (32 percent) of Hispanic voters say they would support Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The President’s lead differs between Hispanic Catholics and Hispanic Protestants voters. Among Hispanic Catholics, Obama leads Romney by 37 points (64 percent vs. 27 percent), Romney does better among Hispanic Protestants, among whom Obama’s lead shrinks to 9 points (50 percent to 41 percent).

Read the news release in Spanish.

Read the Topline Questionnaire, including the methodology.
 
The African American & Hispanic Reproductive Issues Survey was conducted by Public Religion Research Institute among a random sample of 810 non-Hispanic black American adults and 813 Hispanic American adults who are part of the Knowledge Networks’ KnowledgePanel. Interviews were conducted online in English among the black American sample and in both English and Spanish among the Hispanic sample. Interviews were conducted between June 14 and June 23, 2012. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.7 percentage points for the Hispanic sample and +/- 5.1 percentage points for the black American sample at the 95% level of confidence.

Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life. 

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