Another Poll Shows Majority Opposes Overruling Roe v. Wade

A fourth poll in less than a month shows that most Americans support keeping the rights protected in Roe v. Wade alive.

As the Senate moves closer toward hearings and a vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to sit on the Supreme Court, another new poll finds support for abortion rights, and specifically for the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, is at an all-time high:

As President Trump awaits a hearing for his Supreme Court pick, support for the 1973 landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade has hit an all-time high among Americans, according to a new poll released Monday.

The NBC News and the Wall Street Journal poll found that that 71 percent of American voters believe that the ruling in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that federally legalized abortion, should not be overturned. Only 23 percent of those surveyed said the ruling should be reversed.

According to NBC News, that is the highest level of support among American voters for the decision in the history of the poll dating back to 2005.

(…)

Of those respondents who identified as Democrats, 88 percent said they support the ruling. Seventy-six percent of those that identified as independents said Roe v. Wade shouldn’t be overturned and 52 percent of Republicans also said the same.

The poll also found that 39 percent of Republicans said they do not support Roe v. Wade.

A majority of those polled were also found to be more likely to vote for a pro-abortion-rights rather than a political candidate who backs restrictions on abortions.

Forty-four percent of voters polled said they would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who supports abortion rights, while 26 percent of American voters said they would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who supports abortion restrictions.

Twenty-nine percent of voters said that a political candidate’s stance on abortion rights would have no effect on their vote.

This is the fourth poll to come out since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement nearly a month ago that has found strong public support for the Supreme Court’s precedent in Roe v. Wade. A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, for example, found that 67% of Americans opposed overturning Roe while only 29% supported overturning it. Similarly, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 63% of those surveyed opposed overturning the decision while only 31% supporting overturning it. Finally, and most recently prior to this poll, a Gallup poll found that 64% of those surveyed said that they opposed overturning the decision, while just 28% said they supported overturning it.

These poll results are interesting largely because they differ significantly from polling on more general questions about abortion itself show public opinion to be far more closely divided. The most recent Gallup poll on the subject, which was taken prior to the announcement of Justice Kennedy’s retirement, showed the American public essentially evenly divided on the central issue of the debate of the abortion. In that poll, 48% of respondents identified themselves as “pro-life” and 48% identified as “pro-choice,” a result that is largely consistent with previous Gallup polls on the issue that go back to the beginning of the 21st Century. That same Gallup poll found that roughly half of all Americans should be legal under at least some circumstances, while 29% said it should be legal in all circumstances. Just 18%, meanwhile, said in response to the poll that abortion should be illegal under all circumstances. Based on these numbers, 80% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in “some or all” circumstances. In that regard, of course,  it’s worth noting that Roe and its progeny do not establish an unrestricted right to abortion, and instead recognize that there is a point during a pregnancy when the state could arguably have an interest in protecting an unborn child, particularly after the pregnancy has passed the point where a fetus would be viable outside of the womb.

Citing these and other polls, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin argues that part of the reason that support for abortion rights is increasing is due to none other than Donald Trump and suggests that numbers such as this could give political cover to red state Democrats and Republicans like Susan Collins to take a stand against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination:

As with the Affordable Care Act, which gained majority support only when President Trump threatened to take it away, Trump’s nomination of a second Supreme Court justice off the list of approved right-wing judges has driven support for abortion rights to new heights. The latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll finds that “71 percent of American voters believe that the decision, which established a woman’s legal right to an abortion, should not be overturned. Just 23 percent say the ruling should be reversed.” This is unprecedented. “That’s the highest level of support for the decision — and the lowest share of voters who want Roe v. Wade overturned — in the poll’s history dating back to 2005. In 1989, according to Gallup’s survey, 58 percent said they believed it should stay in place while 31 percent disagreed.”

How does Trump manage to drum up support for progressive policies? We may not appreciate what we have (be it a right, a service or a product), but faced with losing it entirely, we recoil. The fear of loss can trigger newfound appreciation for the status quo.

(…)

As a practical matter, vocal support for Roe and public trepidation about Kavanaugh may make it easier for red-state Democrats to oppose the nomination. It will intensify pressure on pro-choice Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. In November and beyond, Kavanaugh’s nomination certainly could help Democrats rally members of their base, especially married women who of late have fled the GOP, expressed deep concerns about Trump’s presidency and turned out in strong numbers in special elections, primaries and state elections in 2017 and 2018.

It’s not just Democrats who understand that the prospect of reversing Roe is a political loser. Conservatives who have long promised to reverse Roe and allow states to ban virtually all abortions now insist that Roe wouldn’t really be tossed aside, maybe just “trimmed around the edges.” That disingenuous gambit has not fooled many voters; they understand fully the difference between a 5-4 majority for abortion protection and a 5-4 majority composed of justices selected precisely because they believe Roe lacks constitutional merit.

While I understand the political argument that Rubin is making here, I tend to doubt that these poll numbers are going to have as big an impact on Kavanaugh’s nomination as she seems to believe. In the case of red-state Democrats like Joe Manchin, Heidi, Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly, the fact that the confirmation vote is likely to take place within less than two months before Election Day is going to make it difficult if not impossible for them to change their vote on Kavanaugh from the one that they took on Justice Neil Gorsuch. Notwithstanding the fact that confirming Kavanaugh would likely mean a vote that will serve to weaken the precedent established in both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the fact that the voters in their respective states are likely to be pressuring them to support Kavanaugh seems likely to overwhelm them and cause them to end up supporting Judge Kavanaugh. The same seems true for Republicans such as Collins and Murkowski who, notwithstanding the fact that they are generally more supportive of abortion rights than other Republicans, have voted in the past for Judges and Justices known to be hostile to the Roe and Casey precedents. While all of this could change depending on how the hearings before the Judiciary Committee go, as things stand now I still continue to expect that they’ll go along with their fellow Republicans in supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

All that being said, these poll numbers do have some interesting implications for the politics of abortion rights that go beyond the issue of whether Roe v. Wade and its progeny will survive. Rubin is correct to note that support for Roe and its progeny and abortion rights, in particular, seems to have increased markedly now that it seems as if the precedent in Roe could be at risk. What this suggests, obviously, is that if the Supreme Court were to overturn the decision in Roe, or significantly limit it so that abortion rights are threatened nationwide, then it will likely set off a political battle that Republicans may end up regretting setting off. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a reason to be concerned, of course. At least in heavily Republican states such an outcome would likely mean more restrictions on abortion rights that would make it harder for women to have abortions. On a larger scale, though, a loss at the Supreme Court could end up providing the abortion rights movement with the political momentum it has been lacking in recent years, meaning that this could all end up biting Republicans where it hurts in the long run.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Law and the Courts, Public Opinion Polls, Supreme Court, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    Aww, appealing to majority preferences — that’s adorable.

    Americans also support more gun control, but all we will ever get is thoughts and prayers. And then there is popular vote loser Donald J. Trump…

    Republicans aren’t going to be held back by this. Republicans are going to do what they’ve said they’re going to do — pursue a ban on abortion, above and beyond overturning Roe v. Wade.

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  2. Moosebreath says:

    @Gustopher:

    “Aww, appealing to majority preferences — that’s adorable.

    Americans also support more gun control, but all we will ever get is thoughts and prayers. And then there is popular vote loser Donald J. Trump…”

    And after those there’s majority support for raising taxes on the rich, expanding health care insurance, doing more to counter the effects of climate change, etc.

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  3. Polling Data Shows Americans Oppose Roe v. Wade Decision That Allows Virtually Unlimited Abortions

    http://www.lifenews.com/2018/07/03/polling-data-shows-americans-oppose-roe-v-wade-decision-that-allows-virtually-unlimited-abortions/

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  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    The gap between “pro-life” and “favors overturning Roe” is the Virtue Signaling Gap (trademark pending.) It’s fun and easy to disapprove of someone else’s abortion, but when it’s your daughter or wife, well, they have good reasons unlike those people. Abortion for me and mine, then wave a pro-life sign and feel like a Christian.

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  5. JKB says:

    Useful to stir up the base, but the “fear” of Roe v Wade being overturned in a nothingburger. It isn’t even the controlling decision on abortion. Roe is, however, the decision controlling bodily privacy. Abortion and it being outlawed was the driving facet, but the decision was on bodily privacy. Forty-five years ago, privacy between a doctor and a patient over medical care wasn’t an issue, except in the area of abortion, but now with government wanting death panel control, it’s more important.

    Were a case to rise to the SCOTUS that could challenge Roe, those wanting to keep the precedent won’t be arguing for abortion, should they wish to win, but will argue the case as it was decided, on bodily privacy.

    In any case, Kavanaugh wrote the footnote that Chief Justice Roberts used almost verbatim to save Obamacare, so is he really a threat to Roe?

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    I’m pretty sure no one here is stupid enough to buy this transparent bullshit. Roe has been the be-all, end-all of the white evangelicals who are the bedrock of the Trump cult. But dishonesty never has bothered you.

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  7. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds: One phrase that really grates on me is “personally pro-life.” (Mike Pence used that phrase to describe Tim Kaine during the debate. I doubt Kaine would agree–but I have heard other people self-identify by the term.) To me, “personally pro-life” is an oxymoron because the abortion debate simply isn’t a debate over personal views, it’s a debate over public policy. Either you support a woman’s legal right to an abortion or you don’t, and if you do, you’re “pro-choice” whether you like it or not.

  8. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod:

    To me, “personally pro-life” is an oxymoron because the abortion debate simply isn’t a debate over personal views, it’s a debate over public policy.

    “Pro-choice but personally pro-life” (as I usually hear it, or some variation on that) is making the separation between personal and policy views explicit, and implicitly encourages people to think about the issue from a policy perspective rather than a personal comfort perspective.

    It’s a phrasing that appeals to me a lot — a person’s rights should be greater than a politician’s religious views — but I am not your average voter, so what do I know?

  9. Gustopher says:

    @JKB: Racism is also good for stirring up the base, but then you end up with a President endorsed by the KKK who fills his cabinet with white nationalists.

    When someone says that they are going to do something I won’t like, and are consistent about saying it while seeking the power to actually do it… I’m going to take them at face value. They may not have really meant it when they started out, but now they have been replaced by true believers or convinced themselves that they meant it.

  10. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Most people are opposed to late abortions on demand, but they don’t want woman to carry the baby from their rapist. That’s why most people are not really “pro-choice” or “pro-life”, they are both. Or neither.

  11. KM says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Most people are opposed to late abortions on demand, but they don’t want woman to carry the baby from their rapist.

    But that doesn’t really jive with the whole “it’s murder!!!” shtick, does it? Or are they saying it’s OK to murder the “pre-born” in certain circumstances that they personally approve of? What, are those babies inherently wrong that rape makes it OK to kill them or that the mother’s trauma overrides their right to life? Funny, the mother’s state of mind, feelings or concerns don’t seem to matter any other time so a pro-lifer that’s just fine with the rape exception is literally admitting they don’t consider those babies human enough to murder in their own moral code.

    People seems to be fine with the mother have bodily autonomy when it’s something *they* approve of (protection from the consequences of a horrible crime, some medical issues, etc) but suddenly they get up in arms when that same right and action gets applied by the woman’s choice. In other words, it’s still THEIR choice to decide what’s acceptable, who has rights and who’s human enough to qualify for their compassion. They not pro-life, they’re pro-control.

  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:

    with government wanting death panel control

    Seriously?
    You’re dumb.

  13. al Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    Forty-five years ago, privacy between a doctor and a patient over medical care wasn’t an issue, except in the area of abortion, but now with government wanting death panel control, it’s more important.

    Two observations:

    (1) When it comes a women’s right to privacy concerning her doctor and her reproductive healthcare decisions, Republicans have decided that it is not as important as letting the federal or state government control her decision concerning reproductive health.

    (2) You guys are STILL shamelessly pimping Sarah Palin’s “Obamacare Death Panels” lie? Right now the only ‘Death Panels’ that exist are the ones at your insurance company offices. If you can afford a good enough policy then you may not have to worry about that ‘Death Panel.’

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Moosebreath:

    And after those there’s majority support for raising taxes on the rich, expanding health care insurance, doing more to counter the effects of climate change, etc.

    Migawd, it’s almost as if the U. S. weren’t really a “center right” nation like every lazy pundit in the country says.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Kylopod: “personally pro-life” is a reasonable view for a practicing Catholic politician, as both Kaine and Biden are. It’s a statement that ‘I follow the precepts of my faith in my own life, but nothing in my faith or the Constitution says I get to impose my beliefs on others.’ I sometimes say that maintaining a diverse civil society requires just a little bit of agnosticism everybody’s part.

  16. inhumans99 says:

    @JKB:

    Dude…you almost made it until this part of your post: “but now with government wanting death panel control, it’s more important.” It was refreshing to see a cogent post from you that does not seem to be a post simply designed to troll liberals, or yet another but Clinton/Hillary were Satan before President Trump was Satan post.

    Baby steps and all that, I will take what I can get for now.

    Now that I think about it, Mbunge’s post in another OTB post was also pretty bog ordinary and not designed simply to rile up liberals, so either the Rapture is about to happen rather soon or maybe, just maybe Cohen very publicly declaring that he has other tapes with President Trump speaking on them actually has our President’s defenders a wee bit shook.

    Naw, the Rapture is imminent, repent all ye unworthy souls for the end is nigh.

  17. grumpy realist says:

    It’s quite notorious that a lot of proclaimed “pro-lifers” are only that way until it’s their own situation we’re talking about, at which point getting an abortion is a perfectly fine operation. It’s only all those other women who are sluts.