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Poll: Majority Support Principles of Roe v. Wade, Even if Unfamiliar With Case

Poll: Majority Support Principles of Roe v. Wade, Even if Unfamiliar With Case

January 17, 2013 — The majority of U.S. residents oppose overturning the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that barred laws outlawing abortion nationwide 40 years ago, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, Reuters/Washington Post reports. The survey was released on Wednesday, less than a week before the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe decision (Wisniewski, Reuters/Washington Post, 1/16).

The researchers interviewed 1,502 adults by phone from Jan. 9 through Jan. 13 (Muskal, "Nation Now," Los Angeles Times, 1/16).

Knowledge of Roe Decision

Overall, most respondents knew that the ruling was related to abortion, but only 44% of those younger than age 30 knew so (AP/Washington Times, 1/16). Forty-one percent of respondents under age 30 thought Roe might have to do with the death penalty, the environment or were not sure (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 1/16).

After telling respondents that Roe "established a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy," the researchers found that 63% said the decision should be upheld, 29% said it should be overturned and 7% declined to answer (AP/Washington Times, 1/16). The results varied little from surveys in 2003 and 1992, Pew said.

Respondents who were most likely to favor upholding Roe were those ages 50 to 64 (69%) and ages 18 to 29 (68%). Overall, there were only slight generational difference in opinions, and there was no difference by gender.

Religious Demographics

The poll also highlighted religious differences in whether people think Roe should be overturned, according to Reuters/Post.

Forty-seven percent of respondents said they believe abortion is morally wrong, but the only religious group in which a majority favored overturning Roe was white evangelical Protestants, with 54% opposing the ruling. Majorities of mainstream white Protestants (76%), black Protestants (65%) and white Catholics (63%) supported Roe (Reuters/Washington Post, 1/16).

Importance of Abortion as Political Issue

Only 18% of respondents said abortion is a "critical issue" facing the U.S., compared with 28% in 2006 ("Nation Now," Los Angeles Times, 1/16).

Forty-one percent of respondents said the Democratic Party best represents their views on abortion, while 36% identified most with Republicans' views (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/16).