Majorities back maintaining Roe v. Wade, oppose states' abortion clinic restrictions (POLL)

Two-thirds also say the controversial Texas abortion law should be overturned.

November 16, 2021, 6:00 AM

As abortion returns to the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket, majorities of Americans support maintaining Roe v. Wade, oppose states making it harder for abortion clinics to operate and see abortion primarily as a decision to be made by a woman and her doctor, not lawmakers.

Americans -- 60-27% -- say the high court should uphold Roe in this ABC News/Washington Post poll, including majorities of men and women, young adults and seniors, college graduates and those without degrees and whites and racial and ethnic minorities alike. It’s 62% among Catholics and steady across urban, suburban and rural residents.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

A majority supports retaining Roe, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a woman’s right to an abortion, even in the 26 states where, according to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion bans or severe restrictions are anticipated if the ruling was overturned.

Roe v. Wade aside, the survey finds that 58% of Americans oppose state laws that make it harder for abortion clinics to operate vs. 36% who support them. Strong opposition far outstrips strong support, 45% vs. 26%.

The Texas law that empowers private citizens to sue those providing or assisting with abortions is even more unpopular: Two-thirds of Americans say the Supreme Court should reject it, including nearly a third of those who otherwise support additional state restrictions.

On a more personal level, 75% say the decision whether or not a woman can have an abortion should be left to her and her doctor, not regulated by law. It’s a sentiment held by majorities across the political spectrum, including by bare majorities of Republicans and conservatives and half of evangelical white Protestants.

What’s Next For Roe

While Roe v. Wade has faced challenges before, analysts suggest that it faces the strongest possibility in recent years of being overturned, citing the court’s hearing this term of a case challenging abortion restrictions in a Mississippi law.

While prospects for Roe in the high court have waxed and waned, public support for the ruling has been largely steady. Sixty percent support upholding it in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, which is consistent with 62% among registered voters last fall and 59 to 65% in results to a separate question asked from 2005 to 2010.

Support for retaining Roe runs especially high among liberals (87%), Democrats (82%), people with post-graduate degrees (73%), those under 30 and Black Americans (both 71%). It’s also 71% among women under 40 – compared with 54% among men that age. (Among all women, 64% support Roe; among all men, 56%.)

Opposition is more muted, reaching majorities in only a few groups, and mostly by smaller margins than in groups that back the ruling. Preference for Roe to be overturned peaks at 70% among people identifying themselves as strong conservatives, but drops to 38% among those who are somewhat conservative. It’s supported, by contrast, by nearly all strong liberals and 79% of those who are somewhat liberal.

In another leading opposition group, 58% of evangelical white Protestants support overturning Roe, while 30% favor upholding it.

In the 26 states where bans or severe restrictions on abortion are considered likely if Roe were overturned, 54% support upholding it.

State Laws

Like other abortion-related legal issues, views on state restrictions making it harder for abortion clinics to operate are highly partisan. Eighty-three percent of Democrats oppose these laws, with 71% strongly opposed, while Republicans support them by nearly 2-1, 62-32%. Independents fall closer to Democrats, with 61% opposed to such restrictions.

Even less popular than state restrictions in general is the Texas law, with the public saying by 65-29% that it should be rejected by the Supreme Court. This law gets majority backing only from evangelical white Protestants (60%), conservatives (56%) and Republicans (55%). Just 7% of liberals, 8% of Democrats, 16% of moderates and 26% of independents agree.

The Texas law was the subject of an expedited hearing in the Supreme Court earlier this month, with a ruling expected soon to determine whether the state can be sued by those challenging the statute. The court hears the Mississippi case Dec. 1.


The most lopsided result in this survey comes in response to a question that poses the issue outside the legal context, asking if the decision whether or not a woman can have an abortion should be left to the woman and her doctor – preferred by 75% – or regulated by law, selected by 20%.

Among groups, 81% of women say the decision should be left to the woman and her doctor, compared with 69% of men. That reaches 86% among women under 40 as well as a similar 78% of older women. It’s higher still among Black people, 91%, compared with about seven in 10 whites and Hispanics alike.

Support for leaving the decision to the woman and her doctor ranges from 70% to 80% across age groups, encompasses three-quarters of Americans regardless of their education and income levels and crosses other customary attitudinal lines as well; for example, it’s 71 to 76% in rural, suburban and urban areas alike.

As noted, even narrow majorities of Republicans (53%) and conservatives (52%) say the decision should be between a woman and her doctor and evangelical white Protestants divide on the question, 49-47%.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Nov. 7-10, 2021, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions in the full sample are 27-26-37%, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

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