Reminder to SCOTUS: Only about a third of Americans support overturning Roe

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Warning signs flashed red on Wednesday during oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court over a Mississippi abortion ban. Based on the tenor of the justices’ questioning, the consideration at hand quickly evolved from whether the high court’s extreme majority would uphold the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to how quickly it would dismantle the legal precedent that has guided abortion law nationwide for nearly half a century.

As a baseline, Gallup has been polling attitudes over Roe for over three decades and has never found support for overturning Roe to be higher than roughly a third of Americans. In May 2021, just 32% of respondents favored overturning the law.

Meanwhile, support for keeping the Roe abortion precedent has typically hovered around 60% in recent polling. Gallup’s May poll found 58% support, while a November Quinnipiac poll found 63% support, and a November Washington Post/ABC poll found 60% favored the precedent.

Attitudes about whether abortion should be legal in all cases, under certain circumstances, or no circumstances at all get a little trickier to track based on the various wording of the questions. But regardless of how the question is framed, solid majorities favor keeping abortion legal in this country. The Gallup survey found 80% support for keeping abortion legal either in all cases (32%) or under certain circumstances (48%). Just 19% favored making abortion illegal in all cases. In May, Pew Research Center found 59% support for keeping abortion legal “in all or most cases.” Pew has found that sentiment remaining relatively steady over the last handful of years, hovering right around 60%.

But politically speaking, Republicans could take a hit with college educated/suburban voters if the court’s extremists either overturn Roe outright or significantly chip away at abortion rights. Specifically, Pew found that support for abortion rights rises right along with one’s level of education.

About two-thirds of college graduates (68%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do 61% of those with some college education. Those with a high school degree or less education are more evenly divided on the question: 50% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 47% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Suburban voters will almost surely be a decisive voting bloc next November and, at base, Republicans will wind up on the wrong side of any decision that significantly curtails women’s access to abortion and reproductive health services—a ruling that is expected to drop next summer.