The Personal is More Political: Abortion Attitudes in 1984 and 2004

Katherine Mathews, Pomona College
Jill Grigsby, Pomona College

In her 1984 book Abortion: the Politics of Motherhood, Kristin Luker discusses the influence of “family values” on abortion attitudes during the Reagan era. She argues that Americans who disagreed on abortion rights also disagreed on the acceptable roles of women, religion and sexuality within society. Have these influences changed twenty years later in 2004? Are religious and political attitudes more important today than they were in 1984? Or are socio-demographic variables such as gender, education, residential location and family size more important determinants of abortion attitudes? Data from the General Social Survey show that attitudinal variables such as views toward homosexual sex, religious beliefs and political affiliations dominated abortion attitudes in 2004. In contrast, socio-demographic variables played a much greater role in 1984 than in 2004. In twenty years, the “personal” issue of abortion has become more political and more attitudinal.

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Presented in Poster Session 5