East-West differences in German abortion opinion

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This article examines East-West differences in abortion opinion in the German mass public. The article explains East Germans' greater support for abortion by differences in the social characteristics of individuals and by the social context of religion. I focus specifically on both individual and contextual effects of religion and on women's place in the workforce. Analyses of 1991 survey data indicate that two main factors explain differences in the abortion opinion of East and West Germany. First, opinions on abortion differ primarily as a result of the social composition of the two societies; secularization and high levels of women's employment produce more support for abortion in East Germany. Second, separate analyses in East and West Germany indicate that the significant factors explaining abortion opinion differed in 1991. For East Germans, women's employment played a significant role in determining abortion opinion, while religious denomination did not. In contrast, West Germans are largely unaffected by women's employment status, although the factors that determine abortion attitudes differ by sex. A replication of the analysis with 1996 data indicates the growing importance of religion in the East. However, women's employment continues to be insignificant in explaining abortion attitudes in West Germany.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-582
Number of pages38
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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