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Anti-abortion demonstrators and abortion rights activists protest June 25, 2022, outside the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP) Anti-abortion demonstrators and abortion rights activists protest June 25, 2022, outside the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP)

Anti-abortion demonstrators and abortion rights activists protest June 25, 2022, outside the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP)

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson April 24, 2023

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision June 24, 2022, to overturn Roe v. Wade was an earthquake for abortion policy. But did the tremors shake public opinion? Surveys taken after the decision provide a mixed answer.

Many political analysts have suggested that the Democrats’ surprisingly strong performance in the 2022 midterm elections — which were held about five months after the Supreme Court’s decision — stemmed partly from public dissatisfaction with the justices’ ruling. And there’s evidence that Democratic voters in particular were energized to vote because of the change in abortion policy.

However, polling data from before and after the decision show relatively stable opinions on abortion policy, although the balance of opinion tends to show abortion-rights support outpacing anti-abortion sentiment.

Here’s a look at some recent polling on this consistently divisive issue.

Has support for abortion rights increased after Roe was overturned?

Every year, the pollster Gallup asks people about their satisfaction with aspects of American life. Respondents saying they are "very dissatisfied" with "the nation’s policies regarding the abortion issue" have spiked somewhat.

In 2021, 30% of survey respondents said they were "very dissatisfied" on abortion policy. In 2022, the share rose to 41%, and in 2023, it rose to 48%. (As recently as 2014, the share saying this was as low as 19%.)


This finding is broadly echoed in polling by Quinnipiac University that was completed at shorter intervals before and after Roe was overturned.

In May 2021, 57% of respondents told Quinnipiac that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. 

But Quinnipiac’s most recent survey, from February 2023, found 64% saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 29% said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. 

This shift has also manifested in some state-level polling.

In Arkansas, which has some of the nation's strictest abortion laws, the percentage of respondents to the Arkansas Poll saying that it should be "more difficult" to get an abortion dropped from 50% to below 30% from 2020 to 2022, while the share saying it should be "easier" showed the reverse pattern, climbing from about 13% to 32%, said Janine Parry, director of the Arkansas Poll at the University of Arkansas.

However, polling in Wisconsin shows less dramatic shifts. 

Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, said he has "not seen much change" across multiple questions his polling operation has asked in national polls. 

For instance, from September 2021 to September 2022 — a period spanning the time before and after the Supreme Court’s ruling — the Marquette poll asked about overturning Roe. (Before the decision, the question was posed about a potential future decision overturning Roe; afterward, the question involved the decision itself.)

Excluding respondents who said they didn’t know anything about a potential or actual decision, the percentage of respondents who opposed it fell modestly, from 72% to 67%, while the percentage that had heard of the decision and supported it rose equally modestly, from 28% to 33%.

Still, these figures showed that respondents favored the abortion-rights position by about a 2-1 margin in a politically competitive state.

And national polling data from the Democratic firm Navigator also shows a general dissatisfaction with the Republican position on abortion, said Margie Omero, a principal with the Democratic research firm GBAO. Asked whether they "approve or disapprove of how Republicans in Congress are handling" abortion policy, 35% approved, compared with 56% who disapproved.

Has abortion risen in importance compared with other issues for Americans?

Here, too, the data is mixed. 

Shortly before the 2022 midterm elections, a CNN-SSRS poll found that a broad cross-section of voters considered abortion an important issue in their vote for Congress.

Among all respondents, 72% said abortion was extremely or very important to their vote, compared with 28% who said it was moderately or not that important to their vote. 

Democrats felt most strongly about this at 88%, though more than 60% of both independents and Republicans also felt abortion was extremely or very important to their vote.


And a more recent poll, by The Wall Street Journal in April 2023, found that abortion ranked second among topics that respondents said would most shape their 2024 presidential vote. Among all voters, 23% said the economy, while 11% said abortion. 

However, other polling shows that voters typically do not place abortion first among the issues they care about most.

In a March 2023 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey, the pollster listed 10 issues and asked respondents which one they felt was "most important facing our country."

The economy ranked first at 31%, with this issue ranking as the most important for both Republicans and independents. 

Ranking second was "protecting democracy," chosen by 20% overall and the top choice for Democrats. 

Abortion, by contrast, ranked well down the list of most important issues, with 5% of all respondents saying it was the most important. Even Democrats didn’t focus their attention on abortion all that much, according to this survey, earning first-place votes from just 6% of Democrats.


What do Americans think about the availability of abortion medication?

On abortion medication, surveys show widespread support for continued access, at least in states where abortion remains legal. 

Three surveys — CBS/YouGov, Ipsos, and Pew Research Center — found support for the availability of abortion medication ranging from 52% to 67% among all respondents. And even the Pew poll that found the lowest level of support showed a far greater percentage of people supported access than opposed it — 52% versus 22%. (Pew had an unusually high 24% saying they were not sure of their opinion.)

Abortion medication has been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration for more than two decades and is now used in a large share of abortions. But a legal challenge by anti-abortion groups won an initial decision in federal court to ban the medication. That decision is being appealed; on April 21, the Supreme Court ruled that the drug would remain legal as the case makes its way through the courts.


In what situations do Americans think abortion should be allowed?

Even though several states have approved abortion bans without exceptions for rape and incest, this continues to be an unpopular policy for most Americans.

One recent comprehensive national poll, by the Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies and SurveyMonkey, found 91% supporting access to abortion if the mother’s health is seriously endangered, 86% supporting access in cases of rape or incest, and 76% supporting access if serious birth defects are present in the fetus. 

Not only did clear majorities of Democrats and independents support these exceptions — so did a clear majority of Republicans.


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Our Sources

Gallup, Gallup Satisfaction Survey for abortion, accessed April 21, 2023

Quinnipiac University polling, national trend information, Feb. 16, 2023

CBS News, "Most want abortion pill to remain available — CBS News poll," April 16, 2023

Ipsos, "Americans want medication abortion to remain legal," Feb. 13, 2023

Pew Research Center, "By more than two-to-one, Americans say medication abortion should be legal in their state," April 11, 2023

PORES/SurveyMonkey Poll, abortion, Sept.-Oct. 2022

CNN-SSRS, poll results, Sept. 3-Oct. 5, 2022 

Marist Poll, "Biden & the Issues Facing the Nation: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll," March 29, 2023

Wall Street Journal, nationwide poll, April 11-17, 2023

GBAO-Navigator poll, April 6-10, 2023

PolitiFact, "With Roe reversed and Congress deadlocked, states take up new abortion laws," Jan. 23, 2023

Email interview with Andrew E. Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, April 23, 2023

Email interview with Margie Omero, principal with the public opinion research and political strategy firm GBAO, April 23, 2023

Email interview with Janine A. Parry, director of the Arkansas Poll at the University of Arkansas, April 21, 2023

Email interview with Karlyn Bowman, polling analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, April 20, 2023

Email interview with Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, April 20, 2023

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