By Ariel Edwards-Levy, CNN
Most Americans oppose overturning the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade precedent, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, with a majority saying that if the decision was vacated, they’d want to see their own state move toward more permissive abortion laws.
Just 30% of Americans say they’d like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn its Roe vs. Wade decision, with 69% opposed — a finding that’s largely consistent both with other recent polling and with historical trends. In a set of three surveys taken last autumn by different pollsters, support for overturning Roe vs. Wade stood between 20% and 31%, depending on the precise framing of the question. And in CNN’s polling dating back to 1989, the share of the public in favor of completely overturning Roe has never risen above 36%.
Fifty-nine percent of Americans say that if Roe vs. Wade were overturned, they’d like their state to set laws that are more permissive than restrictive toward abortion, a preference that stands in opposition to the prediction most make that abortions would likely be restricted or banned in the areas where they live. Another 40% say they’d like their state to set more restrictive laws.
Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, which established the constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Six in 10 Americans, including 68% of women, say they personally know someone who’s had an abortion.
The precedent set by the decision might be overturned by the Court’s upcoming decision in a case revolving around a Mississippi abortion law. If so, access to abortion could be banned or restricted in many Republican-led states across the country.
But the poll finds few in favor of that outcome should the precedent fall. Just 20% of Americans would like to see their state ban abortion completely if Roe is overturned and 20% would like to see their state restrict, but not ban, abortions. On the other side, 52% of the public said in the CNN poll that they would like to see their state become a “safe haven” for women who want abortions but can’t get them where they live, with another 7% favoring more permissive laws but not wanting their state to become a “safe haven.”
Expectations break the other way, though. Nearly one-quarter of Americans, 23%, say they think it’s likely that abortions would be completely banned in their area if Roe were overturned, with 32% predicting that abortions would become harder to get, and 14% that there wouldn’t be a change in the availability of abortions. Another 30% aren’t sure how their area might be affected.
The current opposition to overturning the Court’s decision on Roe includes majorities across gender, racial, generational and educational lines. The bigger divides are partisan and ideological: 86% of Democrats and 89% of liberals say they don’t want to see Roe overturned, compared with 44% of Republicans and 33% of conservatives. Partisanship seems more closely connected to views on Roe than gender: Similar shares of Democratic women (87%) and Democratic men (85%) oppose overturning Roe. By comparison, 47% of Republican women and 43% of Republican men are opposed.
The possibility of the Roe vs. Wade precedent ending evokes more strongly negative than positive feelings, signaling a possible intensity gap on the issue. Around one-third of Americans, 35%, say they’d be angry if Roe were completely overturned, with another 25% saying they’d be dissatisfied. By comparison, just 12% would be satisfied, and 14% happy. Another 14% say they wouldn’t care either way.
Roughly half of Democrats, including 58% of Democrats younger than the age of 45, say they’d be angry. By contrast, 29% of Republicans say they’d be happy with the outcome.
Relatively few Americans say they’re planning to base electoral decisions solely around abortion. Twenty percent of Americans say they would only vote for candidates who share their views on abortion, down from 30% in 2019. Another 59% currently say they’d consider it as one of many important factors, and 21% say that they don’t see it as a major issue. The number of Americans who say they’re using the issue as a litmus test is relatively low among both those who support overturning Roe (25%) and those who don’t want to see it overturned (18%).
Americans’ opinions on the legality of abortion aren’t identical to their feelings about how common abortions should be. Most Americans say, 56% to 44%, that they think it would be a good thing to reduce the number of abortions performed in the US. A 90% majority who favor overturning Roe say this would be a good thing, as do 41% of those who don’t want Roe overturned. But both Republicans and Democrats older than 45 are more likely than younger people in their respective parties to say it’d be a good thing to reduce the number of abortions performed.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS January 13-18 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults surveyed online after being recruited using probability-based methods. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.
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