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Poll: Americans want abortion restrictions, but not as far as red states are going

Supporters cheer up as Vice President Kamala Harris gives remarks at the Women's March in Los Angeles Saturday, April 15, 2023.
Damian Dovarganes
/
AP
Supporters cheer up as Vice President Kamala Harris gives remarks at the Women's March in Los Angeles Saturday, April 15, 2023.

Americans increasingly see themselves as supportive of the right to have an abortion and disagree with the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision last year overturning the guaranteed right to an abortion in this country, the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds.

Most of the almost 1,300 respondents also said they are favor of restrictions, but they are opposed to many of the measures Republicans are pushing in red states.

Abortion rights have become a political flashpoint since the court's Dobbs ruling. It boosted enthusiasm and fundraising among Democrats and helped bolster them to better-than-expected finishes in the 2022 midterm elections.

Meanwhile, Republicans have struggled to find the right post-Roe balance after 50 years of lobbying for the landmark ruling to be overturned. They got their wish, but have suffered politically since.

Support for abortion rights at or near a high

In this survey, 61% said they mostly support abortion rights, 37% count themselves as opposed. That support is at or near record highs in the Marist survey and other surveys taken over the last 20 years or so.

A third of Republicans also qualify themselves as mostly supporting abortion rights, not an insignificant share in a party that has made opposition to abortion rights a litmus test for political candidates.

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An equal percentage to those who say they mostly support abortion rights also say either they or someone they know has had an abortion. That includes 69% of Democrats, 59% of independents and even a majority of Republicans (54%).

Six-in-10 continue to disagree with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, according to the poll. But the data also show there has been little change in abortion attitudes since the Dobbs decision.

Two-thirds want abortion limited to the first trimester

Despite the majority support for abortion rights generally, 66% said abortion should be legal in, at most, the first three months of a pregnancy.

Almost 9 in 10 Republicans and three-quarters of independents want to see abortion restricted to three months or less. A majority of Democrats favor a longer window, but even 42% of Democrats want to see it limited.

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Republicans risk going too far — again

On yet another issue, Republicans in red states are overplaying their hand politically, pushing policies that are out of step with the majority of Americans.

Many of the proposed laws that conservatives are pushing in the states — and through the courts — are highly unpopular.

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Majorities supported:

  • allowing abortion at any time during a pregnancy, if the life of the mother was at risk — 7 in 10 Republicans were in favor, too;
  • allowing an abortion at any time during pregnancy in cases of rape or incest — also a majority of Republicans supported this; and
  • allowing states, where abortion is legal, to be safe havens for those seeking abortions from other states.
  • Here, 58% of Republicans oppose safe-haven states, which puts GOP candidates in the potentially difficult position of opposing safe havens to appeal to the GOP base, but risking turning off persuadable voters in a general election.

    Majorities opposed:

  • allowing abortions until only six weeks. Even a majority of Republicans opposed this, although the 40% overall supporting a six-week ban is up from 27% in May of last year; and
  • banning access to a medication abortion. Again, this includes a majority of Republicans (55%).
  • What's more, though they don't have a majority saying so, Democrats are more trusted than Republicans on handling the issue of abortion — 41% say Democrats and 25% say Republicans. A quarter say neither party, and another 1 in 10 said both parties are the same or weren't sure.

    Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Domenico Montanaro
    Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.