Support for legal status of abortion growing in Latin America while softening in Western Europe

27-country survey finds nearly half say abortion should be permitted whenever a woman wants one, and one quarter say it should be allowed only in certain circumstances.

On average, seven in ten adults across 27 countries recently surveyed by Ipsos say abortion should be permitted — 46% whenever a woman decides she wants one and 24% in certain circumstances, such as in case of rape. Only one in six say abortion should not be permitted — 5% under no circumstances whatsoever and 12% except if a woman’s life is in danger. The survey of 20,003 adults under the age of 75 was conducted on Ipsos’ Global Advisor online platform between June 25 and July 9, 2021.

Since 2014, when Ipsos started measuring opinion about the legal status of abortion across the world annually, support for it has been steady in aggregate: it averages 71% across 27 countries today, compared to 72% across 22 countries seven years ago. Views on abortion continue to vary widely across countries and regions. However, this year’s survey highlights significant gains in some countries in the level of support for legalizing abortion, balanced by a softening in other countries.

The most notable increases since 2014 in the total percentage of adults saying abortion should be permitted are seen in South Korea (+20 points to 79%), throughout Latin America — Argentina (+15 to 79%), Brazil (+11 to 64%), Chile (+8 to 73%), and Mexico (+8 to 59%) — and in Russia (+9 to 68%). Conversely, pro-abortion sentiment has declined in Turkey (-15 to 56%), South Africa (-12 to 62%), and four Western European countries — France (-9 to 81%), Spain (-8 to 80%), Belgium (-6 to 79%), and Great Britain (-5 to 80%).

The view that abortion should be permitted at least under certain circumstances is held by a majority of adults surveyed in each of the 27 countries surveyed, with the sole exception of Malaysia (30%). Among them, 13 countries show a majority saying abortion should be permitted whenever a woman decides she wants one — Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Russia, and nine of the 10 European Union member states surveyed. In another eight countries – Argentina, Chile, India, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, and the United States – a plurality agree.

Those who, instead, say that abortion should be permitted in certain circumstances, such as when a woman has been raped, are not a majority in any country, but they are a plurality in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, and Peru — all predominantly Catholic countries.

In Malaysia, the prevailing view is that abortion should not be permitted, except when the life of the mother is in danger.

In nearly every country, women are generally more likely than men to say that abortion should be permitted whenever a woman wants one — 50% vs. 43%, on average across the 27 countries. The gender gap is highest in Turkey (26 points), Russia (16), Argentina (15), Canada (13), South Korea (13), and Poland (12).

Pro-abortion sentiment is also more prevalent among those with a higher level of education. Support being higher among those aged 50 and older than it is among younger adults is a reflection of the fact that the population of countries where overall support for abortion is highest (e.g., Western Europe) tends to be older.

These are the results of a 27-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 20,003 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and 16-74 in 22 other markets between June 25 and July 9, 2021.