Poll: Majorities in most states say abortion should be legal
The Public Religion Research Institute found support for abortion rights was highest in coastal blue states.
A majority of residents in 43 states and Washington, D.C., say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to a new survey of more than 22,000 Americans conducted in the months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a national right to an abortion in a landmark decision.
The survey, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, found support for abortion rights was highest in coastal blue states, many of which have acted to codify or expand abortion access in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.
More than seven in 10 voters in Washington, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Virginia, Illinois, Hawaii and D.C. say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the survey found. Nevada had the highest share, 80%, of residents who said abortion should be legal.
Even in red states, where legislatures have acted to curb abortion rights or create new restrictions on various procedures and medications, majorities support abortion rights. More than half of residents of Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina say abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
More residents said abortion should be illegal in most or all cases in just six states: Utah, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. Residents were evenly divided in Kentucky and South Carolina.
The poll findings seem to back up recent election results, in which voters codified abortion rights in several swing and blue states, and when voters rejected abortion restrictions in deeply red states including Kansas and Kentucky.
“Support for abortion has been increasing gradually for years, and this updated 50-state data makes it clear that current abortion policy in many states is considerably out of step with the opinions of a majority of Americans,” said Melissa Deckman, PRRI’s chief executive.
Deckman said more voters now consider abortion when they make their voting decisions, compared with previous surveys. A quarter of voters, including 29% of women, say they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion. That figure is up from the 18% in 2012 and 20% in 2020 who said abortion rights was an overriding issue for them.
Democrats are three times as likely as Republicans to say they view abortion as a make-or-break issue; a third of Democrats, 34%, said so, while just 12% of Republicans said they consider abortion over all other issues.
A third of Americans, 34%, said they favored the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, while 63% said they opposed the decision. A majority of Republicans, 58%, supported overturning Roe, while just 32% of independents and 18% of Democrats said the same.
The share of Americans who say abortion should be illegal in most cases has stayed relatively steady, while those who say it should be illegal in all cases has declined, from 11% in 2021 to 7% when this poll was conducted in December.
The high court’s decision last year to strike down the guaranteed right to an abortion also appears to have focused new attention on state-level abortion laws. The share of Americans who said they were uncertain about the legality of abortion rights in their own states dropped substantially over the last year, from nearly half, 48%, to less than a third.
Members of most major religions also say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with the exception of white evangelical Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter-day Saints and Hispanic Protestants. Eighty-five percent of those who have no religious affiliation believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
The poll, conducted by Ipsos for PRRI’s American Values Atlas, surveyed 22,984 adults over the age of 18 living in all 50 states and D.C. The margin of error for the overall survey was plus or minus 0.8 percentage points, though the margin of error in individual states ranged higher based on the number of respondents in each state.