A recent poll on abortion and public opinion, conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, has the mainstream media swooning. In their respective articles about the survey, both ABC News and the Post used the results to claim that Americans strongly support both Roe v. Wade and legal abortion. The poll also received favorable coverage from a number of other major outlets including USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and MSNBC.
As I have written before, surveys on Roe tend to provide little insight into public attitudes toward abortion. This is for two reasons. First, most surveys, including this one, fail to mention that Roe effectively legalized abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, a policy that few Americans support. Many Americans aren’t aware that this was the effect of Roe. Second, most surveys fail to explain that a reversal of Roe would not ban abortion but would instead allow each state to decide its own abortion laws.
More important, the media coverage of the new survey has failed to report that the poll actually founds below average levels of support for Roe. The survey found that 60 percent of respondents think the Supreme Court should uphold Roe, but of the three ABC News/Washington Post polls on the subject over the past 13 months, this was the lowest level of support respondents have had for the Roe decision.
According to most opinion surveys, public approval for Roe typically exceeds 60 percent. Sixteen surveys conducted by Quinnipiac University between 2003 and 2021, for instance, found that public support for Roe averaged about 64 percent. Five recent surveys sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about 67 percent of Americans oppose reversing Roe.
It is also important to remember that the enforcement of the Texas heartbeat bill has significantly increased the salience of life issues. Indeed, the mainstream media has worked overtime to provide negative coverage of the Texas heartbeat bill and cast pro-life efforts in a negative light. For instance, a number of media outlets have run stories about women having to travel long distances to obtain abortions. Meanwhile, there have been few stories about the life-affirming work done by pregnancy-help organizations in the Lone Star State.
This new poll should be encouraging to pro-lifers. Despite the media’s best efforts to cast pro-life efforts in a negative light, public attitudes toward abortion have remained relatively stable in recent months. With oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization coming up on December 1, we would do well to stay the course.