NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll: Abortion Rights, May, 2022

Nearly Two in Three Americans Oppose Overturning Roe v. Wade… Nearly Half of Americans More Likely to Vote in November Due to Potential SCOTUS Abortion Decision

The recently leaked Supreme Court draft ruling which would overturn Roe v. Wade is out-of-step with public opinion, and the direction of the Supreme Court’s decision could pose political consequences in this year’s midterm elections. For the High Court itself, the leak presents a nightmare in public perception. Americans’ faith in SCOTUS has plummeted. A majority of Americans have little or no confidence at all in the Supreme Court of the United States, marking a major shift in public opinion.

Overturn Roe v. Wade?
Would you like to see the Supreme Court overturn its Roe vs. Wade decision, or not?
Source: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll National Adults. Interviews conducted May 9th through May 13th, 2022, n=1,304 MOE +/- 3.9 percentage points. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
  • 64% of Americans do not think Roe v. Wade should be overturned, while 33% think it should. Similarly, a 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation Survey showed 27% supported overturning the ruling, and 69% opposed it. Current opinion falls along party lines, but even 34% of Republicans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.

  • The pending controversial Supreme Court decision on abortion is likely to increase voter turnout in this year’s midterm elections. 49% of Americans, including half of voters, say it will make them more likely to vote in November. 25% say it will make no difference to their decision to vote, and only 4% say it will make them less likely to vote. 21% have not heard about the leak. Democrats (66%) are more likely than Republicans (40%) to say a redirection of SCOTUS on abortion will increase their likelihood to cast a ballot.

  • Americans’ faith in the Supreme Court is shaken. 56% of Americans say they have little or no confidence at all in the Supreme Court. 40% have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in SCOTUS. When this question was previously reported (both in February and July 2018), nearly six in ten Americans reported having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the High Court.

  • 47% of registered voters nationally say they will support the Democrat on the ballot in this year’s Congressional Midterm Elections. 42% think they will back the Republican. Support falls firmly along party lines. Independents break 41% for the Democrat to 37% for the Republican. Last month, prior to the leaked Court document, 47% of voters nationally supported the Republican candidate, and 44% supported the Democratic candidate.

  • The Democrats have the current advantage in the midterm elections despite a 39% job approval rating for President Joe Biden. Biden’s score is notched down from 41% among Americans last month. 15% say they strongly approve of Biden’s job performance while 42% strongly disapprove.

"There is a notable plus eight-point difference between the support congressional Democrats receive nationally for the midterm elections and President Biden’s approval rating," says Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "Given the historical connection between a president’s job performance and how his party fares in his first midterm election, this bears watching."

The Complexity of Americans’ Views on Abortion Rights

61% of Americans think of themselves as mostly supporting abortion rights. This includes 88% of Democrats, 32% of Republicans, and 59% of independents. 34% of residents nationally – including 63% of Republicans, 9% of Democrats, and 34% of independents – think of themselves as opposing abortion rights.

However, only about one-third of Americans take an extreme position in the abortion debate. 24% of Americans think an abortion should be available at any point during pregnancy, and 9% believe abortion should never be permitted under any circumstance. In contrast, nearly seven in ten (68%) support some type of restrictions on abortion. This includes 13% who think abortion should be allowed within the first six months of pregnancy, 22% who believe abortion should be allowed during the first three months of pregnancy, 23% who say abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant person, and 10% who say abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the pregnant person.

Even 52% of Democrats think limits should be put on abortion. Only 17% of Republicans believe abortion should never be permitted.

Of note, the proportion of Americans who think abortion should be permitted under any circumstances is up from 18% in 2019. Those who believe abortion should never be permitted has remained unchanged since that time.

Proposed Abortion Laws in the States

Majorities of Americans support changes to abortion laws which permit abortion at any time during pregnancy to protect the life or health of the pregnant person (82%), provide safe haven for people seeking an abortion out of state (63%), or allow abortion any time during pregnancy in cases of rape or incest (63%).

Majorities of Americans oppose abortion laws which would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who assists a pregnant person in getting an abortion (80%), make abortion a crime requiring fines and/or prison time for doctors who perform abortions (75%), allow abortions but only up to the time cardiac activity (about 6-8 weeks) is detected (69%), or allow abortion but only up to the time there is viability outside the womb at about 24 weeks (60%).

Less of a consensus exists about a law which allows mailing prescription drugs which induce abortion. 51% oppose such a measure, and 47% support it. 49% of Americans oppose a law which would allow abortion but only up to 15 weeks, except for medical emergencies or when something is severely wrong with the fetus. 48% support such a law.