Friday, October 7

Most who support Roe see Supreme Court’s potential overturn as a danger to women, other rights — CBS News poll

The nearly two-thirds of Americans who want Roe v. Wade kept in place say they feel angry and discouraged about the prospect that it may be overturned, describing that as “a danger to women” and as a threat to rights more generally. Most Americans, and particularly younger women, think it would also lead to restrictions on birth control and family planning choices. Going forward, most would like to see a federal law passed that protects abortion and in their own states, two-thirds want it to be legal, at least in most cases.

For the one-third who do want Roe overturned, they’d describe it as “a protection for the unborn” and call it a victory for the anti-abortion rights movement  Most of them would like to see a national ban on abortions now. The minority who now want abortions illegal in their states also think those providing any illegal abortions and the women who have them should be subject to criminal punishment or penalties.

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A majority would also like Congress to pass a federal law making abortion legal nationwide.

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That’s especially true among those who want Roe kept in place, who overwhelmingly want a federal law.

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In fact, in reaction to the news of Roe’s possible overturning, the percentage who say abortion should be generally available has now increased a bit, to its highest level.

People who support keeping Roe report feeling scared, discouraged and angry upon hearing it could be overturned.

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View of those who support overturning Roe

Taking a look at the one-third of Americans who do want to see Roe overturned, they would describe that action as protecting the unborn. In contrast to those who see overturning it as a danger to women, most of these Americans instead describe it as a protection for women.

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A national ban on abortion does not find majority favor. This idea does not find majority support from Republicans either, even though most Republicans do think the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade.

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Of those Americans who do want Roe overturned, regardless of party, a majority of them would go further and now favor a national ban on abortions. However, they do not as strongly favor a national ban as those who want Roe kept are supportive of the national legalization of abortion.

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Those who want Roe v. Wade overturned feel hopeful and happy at the prospect that Roe may be overturned.

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The news of the draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court would overturn Roe has caught many on both sides of the issue by surprise. 

Back to the states: What should happen in your state? 

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the matter will be left up to the states. So, going forward, people’s preferences for their states echo their larger views on abortion: large majorities want it to be legal, even if legalization comes with some restrictions, and very few want it totally outlawed.

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People who want abortion legal say it’s because “women should have the right to choose,” it would “protect victims of rape or incest,” it keeps “abortions safe and performed by doctors” and it protects women with high-risk pregnancies.

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Those who want abortion illegal in their state overwhelmingly say it’s “to protect the life of the unborn.” Most also say abortion is not a right, that abortions are too easy to obtain and that abortion is against their religious beliefs.

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And then what ought to happen if illegal abortions do take place in their state? On that, abortion opponents — those who say they want it to be illegal in all or most cases in their state — show majorities willing to see criminal penalties against women and abortion providers. By contrast, support for these ideas does not rise to more than half among Americans overall.

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Impact on women 

Americans see potentially disparate impacts by income and race. By more than two to one, Americans say life for women will get worse should Roe v. Wade be overturned, and that access to abortion services will be a particular challenge for poor women and women of color.

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More than half of women think women’s lives will become worse if Roe is overturned. Women who want Roe upheld (which is a majority of them) are particularly likely to think life for women will become worse — nearly eight in 10 think so.

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Most women have long supported abortion being legal and have favored upholding Roe. And a majority want abortion legal in all or most cases in their state, should the ruling be overturned. These views span all age groups.

Political partisanship and ideology have long divided views on abortion and Roe. Conservative women and Republican women stand apart from women overall in wanting the ruling overturned and in preferring abortion be illegal in their state.

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Women who want Roe v. Wade overturned do not foresee a negative impact on women’s lives, should that happen. 

Views on abortion over time

Perhaps as a result of believing it might change, this latest poll shows an uptick in national support for making abortion generally available to those who want it — from 46% in November to 50% today — marking the highest percentage who say so since CBS began asking the question in 1989.

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Historically, majorities across the political spectrum have either favored making abortion generally available or making it available but under stricter limits. The proportion of Americans that more generally doesn’t want abortion to be permitted has always been considerably smaller than either of these two groups.

How Americans view abortion has more to do with ideology than gender, with Democrats overwhelmingly saying they favor abortion being generally available. Republicans are far less likely to agree, though even among Republicans, more would prefer abortion to be available with stricter limits, rather than have it not be permitted at all.

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This CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,088 U.S. adult residents interviewed between May  4-6, 2022. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the U.S. Census American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, as well as to 2020 presidential vote. The margin of error is ± 2.7 points.

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