By Kathleen Gilbert

PRINCETON, New Jersey, May 15, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, has found that 51% of Americans call themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking that question in 1995.

The new results, obtained from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50% were pro-choice and 44% pro-life. Prior to the current poll, the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46%, in both August 2001 and May 2002.

The new survey documents comparable changes in views about the legality of abortion.  About as many Americans now say the procedure should be illegal in all circumstances (23%) as say it should be legal under any circumstances (22%), in contrast with the last four years, when public opinion tilted more strongly in favor of unrestricted abortion. 

Most people (53%) still say abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances; of these, 35% say it should be legal "only in a few circumstances," as opposed to "most circumstances."

Americans’ recent shift toward the pro-life position is confirmed in two other surveys. The same three abortion questions asked on the Gallup Values and Beliefs survey were included in Gallup Poll Daily tracking from May 12-13, with nearly identical results, including a 50% to 43% pro-life versus pro-choice split on the self-identification question.

Additionally, a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center recorded an eight percentage-point decline since last August in those saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, from 54% to 46%. The percentage saying abortion should be legal in only a few or no cases increased from 41% to 44% over the same period. As a result, support for the two broad positions is now about even, sharply different from most polling on this question since 1995, when the majority has typically favored legality.

The source of the shift came from among GOP ranks, according to the Gallup Values and Beliefs survey, where Republicans calling themselves "pro-life" rose from 60% to 70% since last year. About two out of three Democrats continue to identify as "pro-choice," virtually unchanged from recent years.

The swelling of the pro-life position since last year is seen across Christian religious affiliations, including an eight-point gain among Protestants and a seven-point gain among Catholics. 

"With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation’s policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans - and, in particular, Republicans - seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position," the pollster comments. 

"That’s a historic event from the pro-life perspective," American Life League president Judie Brown told LifeSiteNews.com today. She called the poll results are "excellent signs for progress."

Brown said the poll shows that grassroots-level pro-life education is paying off, and also that "people have begun to see through the deception of politicians who claim that they favor a woman’s right but in fact don’t favor anybody’s rights, except the right to be re-elected."

Regarding the sharp upturn in pro-life identification over the past year, Brown agreed that the heavily pro-abortion agenda of President Obama has likely worked in favor of the pro-life movement.

"I think that people have now envisioned - maybe for the first time in some of their lives, because abortion has been decriminalized for so long - they envision an enemy who is very deceptive, and who never met an abortion he didn’t like, and people are beginning to understand that, to see through him - and that’s a great plus for us.

"As far as we’re concerned, as pro-lifers, he [Obama] is helping us a great deal," said Brown.  "It’s fantastic."