Poll: Strong majority oppose overturning Roe v. Wade
January 22nd, 2013
09:28 AM ET
2 years ago

Poll: Strong majority oppose overturning Roe v. Wade

(CNN) – On the 40th anniversary of the benchmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, new poll numbers indicate growing opposition to overturning the ruling, a move advocated by many in the anti-abortion movement.

The 1973 ruling affirmed the legality of a woman's right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment. In a 7-2 decision, the ruling allowed for legal abortions during the entire pregnancy, but set up conditions to allow states to regulate abortion during the second and third trimesters.

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 39% of Americans say they approve of the decision, while 18% say they disapprove and 41% say they don't know enough about the ruling to have an opinion.

However, 70% say they would not like to see it overturned, with 57% of them saying they feel strongly about their opinion. The 70% mark is the highest number in support of keeping the law since the poll was first conducted in July 1989, when 58% felt the same way.

The change can be attributed to African Americans, Latinos and women without college degrees, three groups that increasingly oppose the overturning of the Supreme Court decision, according to NBC/WSJ pollsters.

On the other hand, 24% say they want to see the decision reversed, with 21% of them saying they have strong feelings about the issue. That number is down from 2005, when 30% said they wanted to do away with the law, and 31% in 1989.

READ MORE: Before and after Roe v. Wade

Breaking it down by more detailed arguments, a plurality of Americans say there should be some exceptions to abortions. Thirty-five percent say the practice should be illegal except in the cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. Thirty-one percent, meanwhile, said it should always be legal and 23% said it should be legal most of the time.

A small minority–nine percent–oppose abortion fully, meaning they think it should be illegal without any exceptions. Two percent say they are unsure.

Political dialogue in the country also saw a surprising but highly-charged debate over abortion and contraception within the last year. Last winter kicked off with sharp disagreement over an Obama administration rule that initially called for religiously-affiliated institutions to include coverage for contraception in their health care plans. And two Senate races brought the topic to the national spotlight when Republican candidates made controversial statements about rape and abortion.

According to a recent CNN/ORC International poll, a majority of Americans–53%–say they approve of how President Barack Obama has handled the issue of abortion, while 35% say they disapprove. Taking a closer look at gender, men and women are basically close on the issue, the poll indicates.

In TV ads, the president's re-election campaign attacked Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for saying he opposed Roe v. Wade. The president was also critical of Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, the two GOP Senate candidates who sparked uproar over their comments about rape and pregnancy.

While Akin said a woman's body is capable of preventing pregnancy during the trauma of "legitimate rape," Mourdock said he opposed abortion even after a rape, because the pregnancy was "something that God intended to happen." Both apologized for their comments.

The president, however, said in an October interview with NBC's Jay Leno that he doesn't know "how these guys come up with these ideas."

"This is exactly why you don't want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women's health care decisions," Obama continued. "Women are capable of making these decisions in consultation with their partners, with their doctors, and for politicians to want to intrude in this stuff often times without any information is a huge problem."

The NBC/WSJ survey was conducted by telephone with 1,000 adults nationwide from January 12 through January 15. The poll's sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The CNN/ORC International Poll was conducted January 14 through January 15 with 814 adults via telephone. The poll's sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: Abortion • Polls
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Ancient Texan

    A poll (not from CNN) printed late last year before the election, showed a much different result; a larger percentage was against abortion than favored it.

    January 22, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  2. RINO Bill

    ... and yet another issue on which the current group of Republican leaders are clueless.

    January 22, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  3. Wake up People!

    So only African Americans, Latinos and women without college degrees don't want the decision overturned?? Way to go Fox-Lite, let's throw out some red meat for the RWNJ's to salivate over.

    All I have to say is go ahead and reverse it and see how many of your teenaged daughters you lose by trying to get one by any means necessary. Trust me it's not only blacks and latinos that have the procedure done.

    I hope this one makes it through.....

    January 22, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  4. Facts don't Lie

    most people that are called pro choice myself included are NOT in favor of what the right calls "killing babies" in fact using abortion just as a form of birth control is deplorable But we are moreso in favor of keeping it legal and safe because if a woman truley wants an abortion she will find out how to get one and it could be fatal if unsafe. There was a case here in Texas a few years ago where a young girl had her boyfriend jump on her belly to induce a miscarrige. That and coat hangers are the kind of stuff we don't need.

    January 22, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  5. vic , nashville ,tn

    Only white men can enjoy liberty that is GOP agenda

    January 22, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  6. Marcus

    It is simple actually. Before Roe vs. Wade there were hundreds of 'providers' all over the nation, when the woman did not ended up doing it herself. Since Roe vs. Wade the number of women dying because of poorly performed abortions dropped significantly in the US.
    Women that want to do an abortion are more likely to end up doing it wether it is legal or not, and of course that she can change up her mind at the last moment... but if she doesn't it happens...
    If Roe vs. Wade is overturned the only significant thing that will happen is that the number of women dying of poorly performed abortions related issues will come back to pre-1973 levels.

    January 22, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  7. Dr. Bob MD PhD

    Abortion is a medical procedure that an individual consents to having done. PERIOD.

    January 22, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  8. Name lynn

    Ok now the people over turn roe vs wade, whats the point. No one can stop the crimmals from gettting guns not obama nor NRA nor the white house leaders, nor the republlicans, nor boehner. The people always taking an cant do nothing, yet we the are waiting an listening to what going to happen next about the gun laws.

    January 22, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Ancient Texan pointed out:

    A poll (not from CNN) printed late last year before the election, showed a much different result; a larger percentage was against abortion than favored it.
    --------------------
    I saw that poll. It came from the same group that published a poll showing how Romney would in a landslide, Republicans would retake the Senate, and that the Cubs would win the World Series.

    January 22, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  10. Wake up People!

    Here in Michigan several years back, there was a teenaged couple that had unprotected sex and the girl got pregnant. She was so afraid to tell her parents that she allowed the boy to hit her repeatedly in the stomach with a baseball bat. Needless to say she lost the baby. The young man was arrested but later released with the charges dropped.

    And no they weren't black or latino, they were white from the all white suburb of Richmond, MI. If you don't believe me, google it.

    January 22, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    The decision to have an abortion is between a woman, her God, and her doctor. It is certainly no business of her nosy parker neighbors, be they male or female. Then again, if men could only learn to keep it zipped, the need for an abortion would most certainly decline as well. What's up, guys? Apparently letting it all hang out isn't working any better than telling a woman to just say no has worked.

    January 22, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda Minnesota:
    Then again, if men could only learn to keep it zipped, the need for an abortion would most certainly decline as well. What's up, guys? Apparently letting it all hang out isn't working any better than telling a woman to just say no has worked.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Good point Lynda although you forgot your trademark "Yes?" at the end! LOL!

    January 22, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  13. Boo

    If you don't want an abortion....DON'T HAVE ONE...but noone has the right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. And to those who think they do have that right, my question to them is "Who died and made you "God?"

    January 22, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  14. Tea party supporter

    Abortion is murder.

    January 22, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    Dominican mama 4 Obama
    Good point Lynda although you forgot your trademark "Yes?" at the end! LOL!
    ------------------

    And now I'm LOL! Ah, but it's so very, very cold in Minnesota this a.m. Two cups of coffee later and I'm much more myself ... yes?

    January 22, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  16. Fair is Fair

    @ Lynda -

    "Then again, if men could only learn to keep it zipped, the need for an abortion would most certainly decline as well. What's up, guys? Apparently letting it all hang out isn't working any better than telling a woman to just say no has worked."
    -----
    Oh come on, Lynda... did you not get the memo that said only women are responsible for birth control?

    /sarcasm

    January 22, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  17. Rick McDaniel

    There can be no banning of abortion. It is essential to stop unwanted children, who will not be properly cared for, and who would simply mature into criminals, from being born.

    The GOP is definitely wrong to push that agenda.

    We need a new political party in America, who leave the church in the church, and who still have fiscal responsibility. That will be the only salvation for this country, as the Dem socialists are bankrupting us.

    January 22, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  18. The REAL Truth...

    @Tea party supporter – Abortion is murder.
    ---------------------–
    And therein lies the crux of the matter. At what point during gestation does "murder" occur. It's completely debatable, and is mostly driven by religious beliefs. What is NOT debatable (or arguable) is that women will have abortions to remove unwanted pregnancies. They have since the year dot and will continue to do so. Regardless of beliefs, it's far preferable to have that event occur under sterile medical conditions than via a coat-hanger in a back alley. That's NOT debatable either...

    January 22, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Tea party supporter wrote:

    Abortion is murder.
    ------------------
    The SCOTUS ruled that it is a right to privacy. When the anti-Abortion people can come up with an argument that has a basis in facts, and not religious views that are constitutionally prohibitted, then the right wing might win the argument. Until that time, the right wing needs to realize that their religious views will not be respected if they show intolerance for other views, including secularism and atheism.

    January 22, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |