New Poll Shows Strong Support For Abortion Rights In Wake Of New Laws

New polling shows support for abortion rights rising amid a plethora of new laws aimed at striking down Roe v. Wade

The passage of highly restrictive new laws in states such as AlabamaLouisianaMississippiMissouri, Ohio, and Georgia that are clearly intended to be a challenge to the Supreme Court’s precedents in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey. and reaffirmed in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt et al has led to renewed attention on the issue of abortion rights. Many conservatives have seen the new laws as a positive development, although the law in Alabama particularly has come under criticism as being too restrictive. Based on a new poll, these new laws may also be having the impact of solidifying support for abortion rights:

Support for abortion rights among Americans has risen over the past year as several state governments are moving toward restricting access. According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, 58 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, an increase of eight percentage points from a similar poll in July 2018. The poll suggests Democrats are the most passionate about the issue, with 81 percent saying it should be legal in most or all cases. That compares to 55 percent of Republicans who say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.

The poll comes as eight Republican-controlled states have passed restrictive new laws on abortion this year, a move that many see as an effort to get the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue. The Reuters/Ipsos survey confirms though what several others have said, which is that Americans as a whole are opposed to very restrictive laws on abortion such as the one recently approved in Alabama that bans abortion in pretty much all cases. Eighty percent, for example, said they support abortion rights for cases of rape or incest.

Even though the recent wave of anti-abortion measures has helped rally conservatives, the poll also makes clear the strategy may not be very effective to win over voters. Only 9 percent of Republicans said their first preference would be to vote for a candidate who made banning abortion his or her main focus. Democrats also don’t seem to see it as the most pressing issue since only 11 percent said they prefer to vote for a candidate whose main focus would be to protect abortion rights.

This most recent poll is in line with other recent surveys that found Americans don’t support restrictive laws on abortion and the vast majority want Roe v. Wade to be left in place. A recent Morning Consult/Politico poll found that 56 percent of registered voters are opposed to other states passing similar laws to the one approved in Alabama.

This poll result is consistent with another recent poll that showed that most Americans, including a plurality of Republicans, oppose overturning Roe and its progeny. It is also consistent with other polling that took place before the latest spate of new state-based abortion laws. All of these polls show that most Americans would prefer the Roe precedent stay in place. 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. Finally, a poll from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found that 71% of those surveyed favored keeping the precedent in place while only 23% favor overturning it. Finally, a poll released one week ago by Quinnipiac University which finds that 65% of Americans support keeping Roe as it is, while just 27% support overturning it. Not surprisingly, these polls also show that, at least in the early stages of pregnancy Americans support the right of women to choose to have an abortion.

Polls like these are important because of the implications they have for the 2020 elections. While Republican opposition to abortion exists largely to please the religious groups that are part of the GOP coalition, most specifically the Evangelical Christians, the poll numbers showing that even a large segment of the group of people that consider themselves Republican don’t want to see Roe overturned and support the right to choose at least to some extent are significant because they show that the GOP base isn’t as united on this issue at it appears.. Furthermore, opposition to overturning Roe and support for abortion rights generally is very high among women, among younger voters, and among those not aligned with any political party but who sometimes lean Republican is fairly high. These are groups among whom the GOP is already in trouble electorally. Seeing the party tied to these new highly restrictive laws and a strategy that seems aimed not at adopting a law that will actually go into effect but in plotting a strategy to overturn Roe could cause them to abandon the GOP at an even faster rate than they already are. This is why you’ve seen many top Republicans distancing themselves from this new slate of anti-abortion laws; because they are afraid of the political implications of being tied to an effort to restrict abortion rights.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, 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


  1. James Joyner says:

    There’s no contradiction whatsoever in the statement “Support for abortion rights among Americans has risen over the past year as several state governments are moving toward restricting access.” To the extent this is a local issue, the nationwide attitude is irrelevant: all that matters is the attitudes within the states in question. To the extent that it’s a Constitutional right, the local attitudes are irrelevant.

  2. @James Joyner:

    This is largely true but it is somewhat relevant to the extent that abortion rights, and court nominations, are going to be an issue in the 2020 election.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yes, that’s fair. It’s going to take a Democratic President and Democratic-majority Senate to make real inroads.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    In addition to severe anti-choice laws, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, also have the highest rates of infant mortality. At the same time, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Missouri did not expand Medicaid under Obamacare, which leaves huge gaps in healthcare coverage for child-bearing women.
    So any discussion of the precious life of children is nothing but pure bunk.
    I see this as being similar to the fight over gun-rights. The majority of Americans want to see common sense regulations on guns…but the gun lobby wins.
    When it comes to a woman’s control over her own body, the make-believe christian lobby wins.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    My reaction to any anti-abortion regulation is as follows:

    Fine. We’ll take it out of MY body and implant it in YOUR body. If you aren’t happy with that concept, start thinking seriously why you aren’t. Your god ain’t my god, and if you have the right to force me to adhere to your religious ethics then I claim vegans should be able to force you to adhere to a vegan diet for the rest of your life.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Your god ain’t my god, and if you have the right to force me to adhere to your religious ethics then I claim vegans should be able to force you to adhere to a vegan diet for the rest of your life.

    I’m not sure that a majority-vegan state couldn’t ban the sale of animal products. We have no majority-vegan states. Alas, we have many majority-Evangelical states.

    The Constitution precludes an establishment of religion and the courts have applied that to the states via the 14th Amendment. It would clearly be unconstitutional to require church attendance. But passing laws based on an ethical code informed by religion? That happens all the time.

  7. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    To the extent this is a local issue, the nationwide attitude is irrelevant: all that matters is the attitudes within the states in question

    Yes but even in the states in question, support is overwhelming on the pro-choice side. If I remember the article correctly, there isn’t a single state in the US with higher then 25% in favor of repealing Roe. The reddest of red states doesn’t want this when it’s people are asked – a vocal extreme minority that ass-kissing politicians love do. Of course, you’ll then get some apologist claiming it’s a urban/rural divide and split hairs on “local” even further but the over-arching trend on virtually every level is don’t touch Roe.

    All this goes to show is that We The People means jack shit to it’s devotees when it goes against what they want. I’d bet every dime I have that if Roe goes away, so will the “states get to decide” BS they’re pushing and suddenly Alabama will feel like telling New York what to do and start imprisoning their own women to keep them from “taking a day trip”. They very, very clearly do *not* care what most people want – Sharia Christianity is their way or *else*.

  8. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not sure that a majority-vegan state couldn’t ban the sale of animal products.

    Why not? There’s no right to the diet of your choice in the Constitution nor a right to sell or purchase specific merchandise. That’s a “found right” in their terminology. Hell, it would fall under health regulations because meat can contribute to a variety of medical ailments and contain multiple disease vectors. The state has more accepted legal ground and precedent there for a ban then to violate bodily sovereignty.

    Honestly, I’m more concerned that they’re willing to forgo the “right to privacy” Roe invokes in a digital age with an already sketchy government and free market up in your business. Even if it doesn’t abolish it, it will do damage to the concept legally. Has anyone actually explored what having the SC officially say there’s no Constitutional right to privacy would mean in a broader context? And no, they can’t dodge it because it’s intrinsically tied up with the case – it will have to be addressed.

  9. DrDaveT says:

    The anti-Sharia side of this debate really needs to get its rhetoric in order. “Pro choice” loses bigtime when up against “Pro life”. The Dems need to start publicly referring to these laws as “Rapist’s Rights” laws, etc.

  10. Hal_10000 says:

    I do wonder if the recent laws and the possibility that Roe would be overturned has changed some minds: i.e., “OK, this … isn’t quite what we wanted really.” The vast majority are comfortable with bans after 20 weeks (with exceptions) and with keeping it legal for the first 20 weeks.

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “Alas, we have many majority-Evangelical states.”
    I would suggest that the above statement is actually false. For my proof, I offer a variation on a question that formed the subject of a presentation at a symposium on religion and public life back in the 90s at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. To wit, if there are so many majority-Evangelical states, why are there no traffic jams on Sundays? (Except, of course, around various stadia and arenae featuring professional sports.)

  12. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Fine. We’ll take it out of MY body and implant it in YOUR body.

    More simply, any “abortion is infanticide” activist who has not yet adopted any children is clearly not really motivated by saving lives.

  13. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner: @Just nutha ignint cracker: According to polls, only one state actually has over 50% of the population identifying as evangelical: Tennessee. Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have a lot of evangelicals, but not a majority.