Most Americans Oppose Overturning Roe v. Wade
Another poll shows that the vast majority of Americans do not want to see the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade overturned.
Another new poll shows that most Americans want the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade to remain the law of the land:
Nearly two-thirds of Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, according to a new poll.
Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide should stand, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday. That is up 11 percentage points from 53 percent in 2012.
The Roe v. Wade decision made its way back into the news after the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy – which gave President Donald Trump the opportunity to nominate a new justice.
Trump said on the campaign trail that he would nominate only judges who oppose abortion rights. On Monday, he nominated D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who has, over a decade, favored compromise for cases on abortion and Obamacare.
More directly from Gallup itself:
As the U.S. Senate prepares to hold confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the public is strongly opposed to any attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion legal nationwide. Currently, 64% of Americans believe Roe v. Wade should stand, while 28% would like to see it overturned.
The poll was conducted July 2-8, just before President Donald Trump announced Kavanaugh as his nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Many Democratic senators quickly voiced their opposition to the conservative 53-year-old judge and vowed to vote against his confirmation, based largely on his judicial record and his stances on a number of issues, including abortion and the Affordable Care Act.
Democratic U.S. senators and a handful of moderate Senate Republicans, including Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, do not want to fill Kennedy’s seat with a justice who opposes abortion rights.
While nominees to the high court often do not openly share their personal views on issues, their past public statements are scrutinized. It is generally expected that Kavanaugh would oppose abortion rights. However, Sen. Collins has said that a remark Kavanaugh made more than 10 years ago about Roe v. Wade – that it was “settled precedent” — is encouraging to her.
The American public stands firmly on the side of upholding Roe v. Wade. Gallup has measured the public’s views of the decision periodically since 1989 and has found majority-level support for keeping the 1973 ruling in place, ranging from 52% to 68%. The current reading is on the higher end measured.
In 2007, 2008 and 2012, the slimmest majorities called for abortion to remain legal — but in each of those years, the percentage of Americans saying they had “no opinion” was elevated. The current reading shows the percentage of those with no opinion settling back down to 9%.
Partisans’ opinions are sharply polarized, with 81% of Democrats, 70% of independents and 41% of Republicans saying they do not want Roe v. Wade overturned. In contrast, 51% of Republicans, 22% of independents and 13% of Democrats want it reversed.
While Democrats’ opinions have been consistent over time, Republicans’ views have been less so. For example, a majority of Republicans — albeit a slim majority, at 52% — said in 2006 that the case should not be overturned.
As the chart below shows, these numbers have varied some over the years but that a solid majority of Americans has always supported the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe:
Gallup also asked whether Senators who will be voting on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court should base their vote on a single issue like abortion:
Americans have decidedly mixed feelings about whether senators should cast their confirmation vote based on a nominee’s stance on specific issues like abortion, if that nominee is otherwise qualified. Overall, 49% of Americans think senators are justified in doing so, while 46% of Americans think it is not justifiable.
Gallup asked the same hypothetical question — which specifies that the nominee “is qualified and has no ethical problems” — in January 2005, just before George W. Bush’s second term as president and months before he announced a nominee to replace deceased Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Americans’ views are nearly identical today to what they were 13 years ago, including a similar partisan divide.
Although the question is asked theoretically, it is possible that respondents view it through a partisan lens: 66% of Democrats say it is justified to reject a nominee based on issue stances, while 59% of Republicans say it is not justified. In 2005, as now, a Republican president was in office along with a Republican majority in the Senate. Gallup has not yet asked the question with a Democratic president in office or with a Democratic-majority Senate. Thus, it is unclear if the same pattern of partisan differences seen in the 2005 and 2018 readings would occur under those conditions.
Almost six in 10 Americans who say Roe v. Wade should not be overturned (57%) think that a nominee’s position on issues is justification for voting against them. Conversely, a similar percentage of those who would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned (59%) do not think a nominee’s views on issues are justification to vote against them.
This new poll from Gallup is consistent with other recent polling that has come out in the wake of the announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, which has inevitably raised concerns on both sides of the political aisle on the fate of the Court’s ruling in Roe. 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. As with this Gallup poll, the partisan breakdown is about what you would expect, with Democrats and Independents strongly supporting the position that the decision should not be overturned while Republicans strongly support overturning the decision.
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. This standard has been reinforced in subsequent case law and, notwithstanding advances in medical science, the point of fetal viability has stayed roughly the same as it was forty-five years ago. Viewed that way, then I suppose that the wide support for maintaining the status quo that Roe v. Wade and its progeny have created isn’t that surprising. Whether it will matter in the upcoming hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination, or indeed whether it should, is another question entirely.