Polls in recent years have noted that millennials “are less supportive of legal abortion than their demographic profile would suggest,” as the Public Religion Research Institute put it in 2011. Such findings have given hope to the pro-life movement that the new generation could change the debate in time.
But a new poll from the same non-partisan organization now indicates otherwise. Even though overall public opinion on the legality of abortion remains stable, opinions are shifting among adults aged eighteen to twenty-nine.
“The pattern among young Americans…is unique,” the PRRI report says. “Approximately one-third of young Americans say their views on abortion have changed in recent years, and nearly three times as many say their views have become more supportive of abortion rather than more opposed to abortion (25% vs. 9%).”
I will venture that this sharp shift is at least partly a reaction to the embrace that Christian conservatives and the allied pro-life movement have given to President Donald Trump in return for his pledge to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. The Trump connection is a sure turn-off for many millennials, who gave a majority of their votes to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election and whose views of Trump have grown more negative since then. (Trump’s approval rating among eighteen to twenty-nine-year-olds is just 25 percent, according to a poll the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government released on April 11.)
The approach Pope Francis has urged would be much better for winning the hearts and minds of millennials, who are the future, as well as a significant force in public opinion right now. In his recent apostolic exhortation, Francis urged a passionate defense of the “innocent unborn,” and added, “equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.”