What the polls actually say about Americans' attitudes on abortion
The median voter opposes overturning Roe v Wade but supports an abortion ban around the end of the first trimester, with a few key exceptions
This week’s leaked draft of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization, which the majority of the Court could use to overturn some or all aspects of the right to an abortion found in Roe v Wade, raises key questions about public opinion on abortion—and has profound implications for democracy in America.
In his opinion, Justice Alito argues that since Roe incorrectly found a federal right to an abortion in Americans’ reasonable right to privacy, abortion policy ought to be left up to the states. But which states’ voters would approve of abortion bans of their own?
Before we get there, let’s start with the national picture. Here, how Americans feel about abortion depends on how you ask the question.
Measure twice, poll… also twice?
For starters, take a poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News this week. They asked if Americans would prefer the Supreme Court to uphold or overturn Roe v Wade, and 54% said the Court should uphold it. Only 28% said overturn:
But if you ask under which circumstances Americans approve of abortion, you get different results.