Polls Show Americans Support Dobbs Decision at Higher Levels Than Liberals Claim

Opinion   |   Michael New Ph.D.   |   Jul 19, 2022   |   12:15PM   |   Washington, DC

The Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has raised the salience of abortion as a political issue. It should come as no surprise that several media outlets have conducted polls on life issues since the decision was released. Contrary to much of the media spin, the polls paint a clear picture: Roe, or at least the abortion policy resulting from the ruling, was never nearly as popular as past polls have suggested.

Shortly after the leak of the draft Dobbs decision in early May, there were three major polls about Roe conducted by the Washington Post/ABC News, Politico/Morning Consult, and Fox News. All three polls found that less than 30 percent of Americans favored the reversal of Roe, a finding consistent with previous polls. The average support for the reversal of Roe across 14 Gallup polls conducted since 1989 was only 32 percent. Similarly, five Fox News polls since 2018 found that an average of only 27 percent of Americans supported overturning Roe.

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But as I have argued in past posts, previous polling on Roe provided little insight about public attitudes toward abortion, for two main reasons. First, many polls on Roe failed to make it clear to respondents that the decision effectively legalized abortion on demand in all 50 states throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Polls have found that only a fraction of Americans supports such a policy. Second, many Americans mistakenly believe that a reversal of Roe would ban abortion entirely. Since Roe was reversed, however, most media coverage has made it clear that that the decision has actually returned abortion policy to the states.

This is likely why current support for Dobbs exceeds past opposition to the overturning of Roe. Indeed, recent polls conducted by the Pew Research Center, CBS News, and Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies/Harris have found that at least 41 percent of Americans support the Dobbs decision. In particular, the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll found that 45 percent of Americans now support overturning Roe. This is a much higher figure than pre-Dobbs polls.

Of course, it would be better for pro-lifers if the Dobbs decision enjoyed even higher levels of public support. Even so, the fact that multiple polls have found more than 40 percent support for Dobbs means it is unlikely that the reversal of Roe will provoke a backlash against pro-life candidates in the midterms. Surveys suggest that Americans are placing a much higher priority on other issues, including inflation and gas prices. Also, Americans have become more likely to identify with the political party that shares their views on abortion, making it unlikely the Dobbs decision will sway many voters one way or another.

LifeNews Note: Michael J. New is a Research Associate at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New