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Clear majorities of Americans want Roe v. Wade upheld

And among Republicans, overturning the decision was only supported by three percentage points more poll respondents than those that wanted it to remain.

A protestor holding a sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on Tuesday.
REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A protestor holding a sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court building.
As a Constitution nerd, the long-standing Supreme Court ruling from Roe v. Wade has always struck me as a clever, generally successful compromise. But the idea that it was really rooted in the Constitution seemed bizarre, almost silly.

As you know, under Roe, the court ruled that pregnancies could be broken into thirds, with an unlimited first trimester right of a pregnant woman to get an abortion, a middle trimester in which states could impose some regulations but not ban abortions, and a third trimester in which states could ban all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother.

I don’t think there’s much in the Constitution to guide such a ruling. But it has mostly held up since 1973, while being constantly contested, mostly by groups calling themselves “pro life” who want to ban abortions or severely limit their availability, and “pro choice” groups advocating for as much discretion as possible for a woman to opt for an abortion.

As you also know, the issue has been deeply, deeply politicized and partisanized. So I pass along today a fresh Washington Post-ABC poll that reflects on the partisan breakdown of those views, and that surprised me only by how much more overwhelmingly Roe is supported by Democrats than it is opposed by Republicans, and by how much independent respondents agree with Democrats.

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Here’s that breakdown:

Among Democrats, by 82-11 percent, the view is that Roe should be upheld, with seven percent expressing no opinion.

Among Republicans, but by just 45-42, it should be overturned, with 13 percent expressing no opinion.

And among independents, it was a solid 58-28 in favor of upholding Roe (with 14 percent “no opinion”).

Moosh them all together, among all adults, by 60-27 percent (with 12 percent undecided) U.S. adults told the pollsters that the Roe trimester plan should be upheld by the Supreme Court.

Obviously, more political, legal and moral analysis can (and will) be done. But if these poll numbers are correct, a decision to further restrict abortion would be overwhelmingly unpopular, by more than two-to-one.

Obviously, the Supreme Court is not supposed to be influenced by opinion polls. Possibly, the anti-Roe crowd feels more strongly against Roe than the pro-Roe crowd feels in favor of the status quo. Other analysis points might apply. But if these numbers are correct, they are a powerful reminder that the long-sought-by-pro-lifers Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe would be hugely unpopular and likely have big partisan political effects.

(And that’s even beginning to explore the real life effects it would have on pregnant women.)

The full Washington Post piece on the Post-ABC poll can be accessed here.