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New Poll: Most Pro-Choice Americans, Even Democrats, Favor Abortion Restrictions

More Americans identify as "pro-choice," but they favor large restrictions on abortion and other issues often described as "pro-life," according to a new poll released Monday. Even a majority of those who call themselves "pro-choice" and those who identify as Democrats say abortion should be restricted to the first three months of a woman's pregnancy, limited to specific cases, or outlawed entirely.

"When we try to debate this in terms of labels, we're really missing the underlying feelings about how people feel on this issue around the country," Barbara L. Carvalho, director of Marist Poll, the organization which ran the survey, told reporters in a call on Monday. Beyond the trite division of Americans into "pro-life" and "pro-choice" camps, "there is a really strong consensus on the issue" of abortion.

The poll, conducted by Marist, but sponsored and funded in partnership with the Knights of Columbus (KOC), found strong support for restrictions on abortion.

According to the poll, a full 54 percent of Americans describing themselves as "pro-choice" favor "significant restrictions on abortion." A third (33 percent) said abortion should be restricted to the first three months of pregnancy (option 1), while 16 percent said it should only be allowed in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother (option 2). Three percent said it should only be allowed to save a mother's life (option 3), and 2 percent said abortion "should never be permitted under any circumstance" (option 4).

The numbers among Democrats are strikingly similar. A full 58 percent of those in the party of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said they favor one of the four significant abortion restrictions. Nearly a quarter of Democrats (24 percent) would limit the practice to the first three months, a fifth (21 percent) would limit it to the specific cases in option 2, another 7 percent said only to save the life of the mother, while 6 percent said it should never be permitted under any circumstance.

Perhaps most surprising, however, are the attitudes among the core constituency of Democrats: women, young people, African Americans, and Hispanics.

According to Andrew T. Walther, KOC vice president of communications and strategic planning, 77 percent of women surveyed also supported laws restricting abortion to the cases described in options 1-4.

A full 69 percent of millennials also wished to restrict abortion in these ways. Nearly a quarter of young people (23 percent) said they would restrict abortion to the first three months of pregnancy, while 29 percent said it should be limited to the special cases in option 2. Eight percent stated that abortion should be limited to option 3, while 9 percent said the practice "should never be permitted under any circumstance."