Most Americans don’t want Roe v. Wade overturned, but it was widely expected even before the leak

Linley SandersData Journalist
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
May 04, 2022, 3:13 PM GMT+0

On Monday, a leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision indicated the Court may favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the Court’s landmark decision that established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion access. Most Americans are not surprised by the direction of the potential decision — but most also do not want Roe overturned.

Fieldwork for the latest Economist/YouGov poll was in the midst of being conducted when Politico published the initial draft, which states, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled.” While most panelists started the survey before the draft’s publication, it appears to have impacted Americans’ views, based on results among the small number of respondents who took the survey just after the announcement. In the days just before the draft was published, 19% of Americans were saying the overturning of Roe either “definitely will happen” or is “very likely.” That view increased to 33% of Americans afterward, based on the 103 respondents who started the poll after Politico published the draft.

A separate YouGov poll, conducted among U.S. adults on the day after the leak was published, found that an even greater share (50%) now say that Roe v. Wade definitely will be overturned, or is very likely to.

Overall, 70% of Americans said there was at least a 50-50 chance that the 1973 ruling would be overturned. Democrats (78%) are slightly more likely than Independents (69%) and Republicans (60%) to believe Roe v. Wade has at least a 50% chance of being overturned. Majorities of both Americans who support overturning the nearly 50-year-old decision and Americans who don’t believe there is a chance it will be overturned, with the opponents of Roe being overturned slightly more likely to expect it will happen.

Many of the people who expected Roe to be overturned didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Just 25% of Americans who think there is at least a 50% chance that the ruling will be overturned expect it will happen in the next 12 months.

Should the leaked draft hold, it would be a decision just one-third of Americans want. Just 32% say they would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned; 45% do not want that to happen. Nearly one-quarter (23%) aren’t sure. In March, slightly more (50%) said they did not want Roe overturned. Democrats are particularly likely to oppose overturning Roe: By 64% to 22% they oppose overturning Roe, compared to a margin against overturning of 47% to 24% among Independents. Just 24% of Republicans oppose overturning Roe, while 57% want it to be overturned.

— Ian Davis and Carl Bialik contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on April 30 - May 3, 2022, among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll

Image: Getty