Most Americans Want Supreme Court Nominee to Share Abortion Views

Most Americans want the next U.S. Supreme Court nominee to share their view on abortion -- but opponents of legal abortion are much more apt to say so than supporters.

With vacancies on the court likely during President Bush's second term in office, 54 percent of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say it's very or extremely important to them that the next nominee agrees with their position on abortion. But that includes 64 percent of those generally opposed to legal abortion, compared with 47 percent of those who support legal abortion.

Regardless of their views on abortion, most do think a nominee's position on the issue should be taken into account. Six in 10 say the Senate should not only consider a nominee's background, experience and qualifications, but also his or her views on issues such as abortion, gun control and affirmative action.

During the presidential debates, Bush said in reference to abortion, "I will pick judges who will interpret the Constitution, but I'll have no litmus test."

Nominee's Position on Abortion
Extremely/Very ImportantSomewhat/Less Important
Abortion Supporters 4752
Abortion Opponents6435

Abortion Views

Overall, 55 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, essentially unchanged from last spring and about the average in polls since 1995. That includes 21 percent who say it should be legal in all cases, and 34 percent who say it should be legal in most cases. Among the 42 percent who say abortion should be illegal, 25 percent say it should be so in most cases, 17 percent in all cases.

Those in either extreme are more likely than others to say it's important that a Supreme Court nominee share their position. Among adults who say abortion should be legal in all cases, 62 percent say it's extremely or very important to them that a judge agrees; among those who say abortion should always be illegal, more, 77 percent, say so.

There's a similar difference among those who take a more moderate position on either side. Among people who say abortion should be mostly legal, just 38 percent call it important that a nominee shares their view. But among Americans who think abortion should be mostly illegal, more, 56 percent, say it's important.

There are also differences among other demographic groups. Sixty-one percent of evangelical white Protestants (who broadly oppose legal abortion) say a judge's position on the issue is highly important to them; 42 percent of non-evangelical white Protestants (who broadly support legal abortion) say so. And while there is no significant difference between men and women on abortion in general, women are 17 points more likely than men to call it important for a judge to share their view on the issue.

Agreement on Abortion Extremely/Very Important -- Gender

Agreement on Abortion Extremely/Very Important -- Religion
Evangelical White Protestants 61%
Non-Evangelical White Protestants42

Agreement on Abortion Extremely/Very Important -- Ideology

Partisanship is not a factor: Roughly equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans think it's important a Supreme Court nominee shares their view on abortion. But ideology is -- 67 percent of liberals call it important (they're the most apt to favor legal abortion in all cases), compared with 57 percent of conservatives and 47 percent of moderates.


A plurality of Americans, 43 percent, say Bush should nominate someone to the court who's more of a moderate; one-third say he should pick a conservative justice, while two in 10 say he should pick a liberal. That matches almost identically the public's ideological composition in this poll.

However, among people who say they voted for Bush, most -- 54 percent -- want a more conservative justice. Among those who voted for John Kerry, most want a moderate.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.


Support for legal abortion is highest in the Northeast (70 percent), and lowest in the South (45 percent). It's 66 percent in the so-called blue states -- states Kerry won -- compared with 45 percent in the red states, where Bush won.

Support is also higher among Democrats (64 percent), and peaks, at 79 percent, among liberals. Opposition to legal abortion is highest among Republicans (58 percent), conservatives (63 percent) and evangelical white Protestants (63 percent).


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Dec. 16-19 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were conducted by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results.

You can find more ABC News polls in our Poll Vault.