A new Gallup poll out today shows Americans may be more uneducated about abortion and Roe v. Wade than ever before. The highest percentage of Americans ever polled now have no position on abortion.
When almost one out of five Americans doesn’t know if the Supreme Court case leading to nearly 56 million abortions should be overturned or not, it leads to the obvious conclusion that polls on abortion are becoming more misleading. How can Americans give their opinion on the status of legalized abortion when they don’t know anything about the status of legalized abortion.
Forty years after the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Roe v. Wade, significantly more Americans want the landmark abortion decision kept in place rather than overturned, 53% to 29%. Another 18% have no opinion, the highest level of uncertainty Gallup has recorded on this question in trends dating to 1989.
The latest results are from a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Dec. 27-30.
In the broadest sense, Americans’ reaction to Roe v. Wade has been consistent for the past few decades. A majority have always opposed overturning the decision, while roughly a third favor doing so. However, in 2006, as the percentage of Americans with no opinion about the status of Roe v. Wade increased, the percentage opposed to overturning it dropped below 60%, and has since remained in that lower range. This year, with a record-high 18% unsure, the percentage wanting it overturned fell below 30% for only the third time since 1989.
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Gallup trends indicate that the increase in public uncertainty about overturning Roe v. Wade is largely the result of a growing percentage of young adults aged 18 to 29 expressing no opinion. This suggests that the generation born entirely after Roe became law has had less exposure to information about the decision than those who lived through the original decision, or were at least old enough to witness some of the major abortion debates during the 1980s and ’90s, such as those involving President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987 and reaction to the high court’s Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey decision in 1992.
The same kind of misinformation about Roe and abortion was seen in a recent Pew poll, where two-thirds of young Americans didn’t even know Roe v. Wade had to do with abortion.