Survey | Religion, Values, and Experiences: Black and Hispanic American Attitudes on Abortion and Reproductive Issues
The African American & Hispanic Reproductive Issues Survey
The Economy and the 2012 Election
Like Americans overall, the overwhelming majority of black Americans and Hispanic Americans report that the economy is a critical issue facing the country (71% and 75%).
- Relatively few black Americans and Hispanic Americans believe that cultural issues such as abortion (17% and 30%) and same-sex marriage (18% and 26%) are critical issues facing the country.
Both black American and Hispanic American voters strongly support Barack Obama’s reelection as President.
- Nearly 9-in-10 (87%) black voters report that if the election were held today, they would support Barack Obama, while 3% report that they would support Mitt Romney.
- Roughly 6-in-10 (58%) Hispanic voters report that if the election were held today, they would support Obama, while about one-third (32%) say they would support Romney. Hispanic Catholic voters are significantly more likely than Hispanic Protestant voters to say they would vote for Obama (64% vs. 50%).
The Legality and Availability of Abortion
Black Americans and Hispanic Americans differ significantly in their attitudes regarding the legality of abortion. Two-thirds (67%) of black Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 30% disagree. By contrast, a slim majority (51%) of Hispanic Americans agree that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 46% say it should be legal in all or most cases.
Attitudes among black Americans and Hispanic Americans on the availability of abortion services in their communities follow a similar pattern. Nearly 6-in-10 (57%) black Americans believe that at least some health care professionals in their community should provide legal abortion, compared to only 42% of Hispanic Americans.
Black Americans are twice as likely to say that increasing the number of restrictions placed on abortion at the state level is a bad thing (46%) rather than a good thing (23%). Hispanic Americans are equally as likely to say that more state-imposed restrictions on abortion are a good thing for society as they are to say that these restrictions are a bad thing for society (38% and 38%).
Black Americans are significantly more likely than Hispanic Americans to believe that abortion clinics are, for the most part, safe. Nearly two-thirds (66%) of black Americans say that abortion clinics are somewhat or very safe. By contrast, fewer than half (47%) of Hispanic Americans believe that abortion clinics are somewhat or very safe.
Black Americans and Hispanic Americans each have a unique set of factors that predict their views on the legality of abortion.
- Among black Americans, level of educational attainment is the strongest single independent predictor of views on the legality of abortion, followed by the relative importance of religion in an individual’s life, having a close friend or family member who has had an abortion, identifying as an evangelical or born-again Christian, frequency of religious attendance, and holding a literal view of the Bible.
- Among Hispanic Americans, the two strongest independent predictors of views on the legality of abortion are political ideology and identification as a born-again or evangelical Christian, followed by frequency of religious attendance, level of educational attainment, age, having a close friend or family member who has had an abortion, belief in a personal God, recent immigrant status, and identification as a Catholic.
- When views about clinic safety are considered alongside demographic and other experiential characteristics, perceptions of clinic safety emerges as the single strongest predictor of views on the legality of abortion.
Complexity of Values Shaping Abortion Attitudes
Roughly 7-in-10 black Americans and Hispanic Americans say that “not judging other people” (72% and 72%) and “showing compassion for women in difficult circumstances” (68% and 68%) 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% vs. 63%).
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%) and Hispanic Americans (77%) say that the term “pro-life” describes them somewhat or very well. At the same time, three-quarters (75%) of black Americans and 72% of Hispanic Americans report that “pro-choice” describes them somewhat or very well.
- Compared to Americans overall (37%), both black Americans (52%) and Hispanic Americans (47%) are more likely to hold mixed identities, embracing both labels or neither label.
For Hispanic Americans, views about the morality of abortion are much more closely tied to views about the legality of abortion than they are for black Americans.
- A slim majority (51%) of black Americans—and more than 6-in-10 (61%) Hispanic Americans—believe that having an abortion is morally wrong.
- The vast majority (73%) of Hispanic Americans who believe that having an abortion is morally wrong also say that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. By contrast, a slim majority (52%) of black Americans who say abortion is morally wrong nevertheless believe that it should be legal in all or most cases.
Influence of Clergy and Church Teachings on Abortion Attitudes
Among those who attend church at least once or twice a month, Hispanic Americans are significantly more likely than black Americans to report that they hear about the issue of abortion in church (54% vs. 30%).
- Strong majorities of black Americans and Hispanic Americans who say they hear about the issue of abortion in church also report that their clergy say that abortion is morally wrong (68% and 84%).
- Hispanic Catholics are substantially more likely than Hispanic Protestants to say that they hear about abortion during church (62% vs. 41%).
- Clergy speech appears to have no independent effect on black or Hispanic congregants’ attitudes toward the legality of abortion.
Strong majorities of black Americans and Hispanic 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 (78% and 60%).
Overall, black Americans and Hispanic Americans believe contraception is morally acceptable (81% and 79%) and strongly support expanding access to it.
- Over 6-in-10 black Americans (61%) and Hispanic Americans (64%) 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%) and Hispanic Americans (85%) favor expanding birth control access for women who cannot afford it. Hispanic Republicans (67%), while still supportive, are less likely than Hispanic Independents (78%) or Democrats (91%) to favor this policy goal.
- 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% and 54%).
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%) and Hispanic Americans (79%) support comprehensive sex education in public schools.
- Black Americans (93%) and Hispanic Americans (91%) are nearly unanimous in their support for making testing and screening for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases more available.
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.