The Volokh Conspiracy

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Poll: People Oppose Overruling Roe, But Favor 15-Week Abortion Ban

Polling data reveals people have no clue what Roe and Casey actually say.


Marquette released a new poll about the Supreme Court and abortion. The results are in tension: people favor sustaining Roe, but also favor Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban.

Nearly 50% majority of respondents are opposed to overruling Roe, nearly a third do not know enough to answer the question, and about 20% favor overruling the case.

Twenty-one percent favor overturning Roe, while 47% are opposed to ending this right to abortion. Despite the intensity of political arguments over Roe for nearly 50 years, 32% say they haven't heard anything or haven't heard enough about this issue to have an opinion.

I suspect many of the people who favor keeping Roe do not know what the case actually held. Indeed, most students have no clue what Roe and Casey held till we study those cases.

Look no further than the questioning on Dobbs. More people support, than oppose the fifteen-week abortion ban. And a third of respondents have no opinion.

Thus, survey respondents were asked if they would favor or oppose a ruling to "uphold a state law that (except in cases of medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities) bans abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy" or if they haven't heard enough about this to have an opinion. Thirty-seven percent favor a decision upholding such a law, while 32% would oppose such a ruling and 30% say they haven't heard enough. In September, 40% favored upholding such a law, 34% opposed such a law, and 27% said they hadn't heard enough.

Thus there is a tension:

Respondents prefer not to overturn Roe, by greater than a 2-1 ratio (47%-21%), but, at the same time, are slightly more willing to accept a 15-week ban than they are opposed to doing so. This is in line with much national polling on abortion over the years, which consistently finds support for maintaining Roe and a right to an abortion but accepts a variety of restrictions including on the timing of abortions, as in this case.

For those Justices who follow the Gallup-poll version of stare decisis, these numbers will no doubt support the dreaded middle ground, where the Court reaffirms Roe in name, but rewrites the test to permit a fifteen week abortion ban. We are left with Casey the sequel.