May 6, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Survey: Over 60% of adults say most abortions should be legal in U.S.

Percentage of U.S. adults who say abortion should be <span style="border-bottom: 2px solid #000;">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span>
Data: Pew Research; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Approximately six in 10 U.S. adults believe abortion should be legal in "all or most cases," according to a newly released Pew Research Center survey.

Driving the news: The poll was conducted before the leak of the draft opinion revealing the U.S. Supreme Court might overturn Roe v. Wade and shows how a wide swath of the public is supportive of abortion rights.

By the numbers: 61% of those surveyed say abortion should be legal "in all or most cases." Of those, 36% say it should be legal "in most cases" and 19% say it should be legal without any exceptions.

  • 6% say it should be legal, "but there are some exceptions when abortion should be against the law."
  • 37% say abortion should be illegal "in all or most cases," with 27% saying it should be illegal "in most cases" and 8% saying it should be outlawed in all cases without exceptions.
  • 2% said abortion should be illegal in all cases, "but there are some exceptions when abortion should be legal."

Between the lines: Democrats were twice as likely as Republicans to say that abortion should be legal (80% to 38%).

  • Democrats' positive views on abortion have been increasing, up from 72% in 2016 and 63% in 2007.
  • "The share of Americans who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases is little changed in recent years," Pew writes. But support has increased.

The big picture: If Roe is overturned, access to abortion would no longer be federally protected and instead states would have the authority to regulate it.

Red states have rushed to enact increasingly strict laws around when a person can obtain an abortion.

  • Over half of adults (60%) say that providers who offer an abortion in a situation where it is illegal should face penalties, according to Pew.
  • Only half of respondents say that the person getting the abortion should not face a penalty in a situation where the abortion is illegal.

Overall, 56% of adults say that how long a person has been pregnant should be considered when determining whether abortion should be legal.

  • Six-week bans: 44% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal at this point, versus 21% who disagree. 19% said "it depends."
    • Texas and Oklahoma are the only two states with six-week abortion bans in effect. Idaho enacted a similar one, but it was blocked by a federal court.
  • 14-week bans: 34% of respondents believe abortion should be legal while 27% say it should be illegal at this stage. 22% said "it depends."
  • 24-week bans: 22% say it should be legal, 43% say abortions should not be allowed at this stage, which is around the time viability is established and in line with Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
    • 18% responded that "it depends."

What they're saying: "I want to mention that views of abortion have remained relatively stable over the past several years," said Hannah Hartig, a research associate at the Pew Research Center.

  • However, "Generally speaking ... people aren't necessarily thinking about this issue," she said when asked if she believed the survey results to be different if it had been conducted after the Supreme Court leak.
  • "In a poll conducted earlier this year ... we found abortion was kind of lower on the list of voters' important issues in the midterms. However, we're in a new world now, so it's certainly something that we're going to be tracking," she added.

Worth noting: Around three in 10 adults (33%) say that the decision to get an abortion belongs solely to the pregnant person.

Methodology: Pew Research Center conducted this study to examine the U.S. public's attitudes about abortion. The center surveyed 10,441 U.S. adults from March 7-13, 2022.

  • The margin of sampling error for the full sample of 10,441 respondents is ±1.5 percentage points.

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