Public Opinion Is Shifting in Favor of Abortion Rights. Will It Affect Policy?

Roe v. Wade’s overturn may have meaningfully shifted public opinion on abortion for the first time in years, a change that could affect what kinds of bans or restrictions abortion rights opponents can safely consider.

While it is difficult to poll on abortion, the results have been relatively stable for decades. For decades, most Americans have identified as “pro-choice,” believing that abortion should be legal “under certain circumstances,” according to Gallup. Around 60% of Americans have supported abortion rights in the first trimester since 1990. The polling also shows that the second trimester supports abortions. consistently been lower than for those in the first, Gallup has found — falling from that 60 percent approval to somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of Americans.

Public opinion on second-trimester abortions has informed how some Republicans — including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — have framed abortion access in the post-RoeThe world is pushing for laws to ban abortion after 15 weeks.

But sharp backlash to those proposals — alongside shifting public opinion data — suggests that when 15-week abortion bans go from theoretical to looming reality, Americans may be less likely to favor banning abortion in the second trimester.

Republicans quickly distanced themselves this week from Graham’s bill for a 15-week national abortion ban, which only has three cosponsors. (A similar bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives. 86 cosponsorsAlthough it is substantial, it still represents less than half of the Republican caucus.

Some experts believe that this hesitation could reflect a new shift in public opinion.

“As voters are thinking about this, and as I think – more meaningfully – states pass these bans and they’re seeing women denied abortion care in cases they feel are appropriate and necessary, I think they are moving,” said Molly Murphy, a pollster and president at the Democratically-aligned firm Impact Research. “I do think there has been a shift, and that voters are more aware of what these bans do and what they mean.”

A poll conducted in part by Impact Research in March — months before Roe v. WadeIn the case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — found that most Americans favored laws banning abortions after 15 weeks. A poll done in AugustAfter the Dobbsdecision was released, found to be the opposite.

The results can’t be perfectly compared. Respondents were asked in March about a 15-week ban with exceptions for cases involving rape or incest. The hypothetical 15-week ban did not have such exceptions in August. Murphy stated that they fit within a larger trend. In March, 11% of respondents to the poll believed that abortion should not be allowed in any case, while 55% said it should be legal for all or most cases. The August poll showed that 6 percent of respondents favored total bans, while 60 percent supported abortion in all or most cases. A 19th News/SurveyMonkey pollA survey of American adults was done in August and found that 60% believed abortion should be legalized in all or most cases.

“The average voter doesn’t spend much time thinking about abortion and they don’t spend much time rethinking their beliefs unless they have to,” Murphy said. “What the Dobbs decision has done has forced people to reexamine their beliefs, and as they have, they’ve moved toward more abortion access.”

Meanwhile, polling from the Public Research Religion Institute — also conducted after the Dobbs decision — found that 52 percent of Americans opposed laws banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. PRRI found that most Democrats and most independents opposed such bans.

PRRI doesn’t have historical data on 15-week bans, specifically. However, PRRI has seen a significant rise in Americans who believe that abortion should be legal in every case. According to data shared with, only 18% of Americans supported this policy in 2010. The 19th. In the most recent postDobbsAccording to polling, 33 per cent said so. During the same period, the percentage of Americans who believe abortions should be completely banned dropped from 15 to 8.

Most likely, the change is due to the fact that overturning Roe made more Americans revisit their views on abortion, said Melissa Deckman, PRRI’s CEO.

“It was one thing to say, ‘It’s reasonable to have restrictions’ when RoeLaw of the land was it. It was more abstract,” she said. “Now it’s a situation where [people are asking] ‘what should those restrictions, if any, look like.’ It’s rejiggered the conversation.”

Still, if Republicans take back both chambers of Congress in the November midterm elections — which seems less likely, with Democrats’ odds of holding the Senate improving — and win the White House in 2024, it’s not clear if the shifting public consensus would deter them from pursuing an abortion ban, Deckman said.

Michael Binder, University of North Florida pollster, said that shifting public opinions may have a smaller impact on a state-level level. The university conducted polling that found that most Floridians opposed a 15-week abortion ban — but because many Republicans, who control the state legislature, still favor restrictions, public opinion did not stop the state from passing and enforcing such a law.

In the coming years, he said, Republican support for abortion restrictions will likely matter more — at least in shaping policy in the states where the GOP retains power.

“Statewide or national public opinion isn’t particularly meaningful. What matters is the partisan support or opposition within the party in power,” he said.