Abortion, religion, and racial resentment: Unpacking the underpinnings of contemporary abortion attitudes

Melissa Deckman, Laurel Elder, Steven Greene, Mary Kate Lizotte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: For many Americans, pro-life attitudes are directly attached to their religious beliefs, especially white evangelicals. Some have argued that evangelicals came to oppose abortion not simply because of their views on the sanctity of life, but out of a growing racial resentment as government policy and society moved towards greater racial equality. Objectives: This study explores the relationship of evangelicalism, racial attitudes, and views on the legality of abortion to explore whether racial resentment is behind evangelical opposition to abortion. Methods: To carry out this exploration this study employs American National Election Studies data from 2000 to 2020 and the 2020 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) Values survey. Results: We find no support for the idea that racial attitudes are disproportionately correlated with the abortion views of white evangelicals. Rather, we find that racial attitudes are now correlated with views on abortion for all Americans. Where abortion attitudes are distinctive from attitudes on other policy issues is in having very strong religious determinants, suggesting that genuine religious beliefs do indeed underscore the pro-life views of white evangelicals. Conclusion: This study provides a good baseline for understanding the relationship between racial attitudes, evangelicalism, and abortion attitudes at the cusp of the Dobbs decision overturning Constitutional protections for abortion, and should be revisited in the post Roe era.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-152
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Roe v. Wade
  • abortion
  • evangelical
  • pro-choice
  • pro-life
  • public opinion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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