More Americans support than oppose a 16-week abortion ban

David MontgomerySenior data journalist
February 22, 2024, 8:10 PM GMT+0

Many Americans say they support a national ban on abortion after 16 weeks of pregnancy, a policy Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reportedly supports.

The latest YouGov/Economist Poll finds 48% percent of Americans strongly or somewhat support a 16-week abortion ban, while 36% strongly or somewhat oppose it and 16% are not sure. However, this support is concentrated among Americans who care less about abortion as an issue than do opponents of a ban.

Among all U.S. adult citizens, more people support than oppose a 16-week ban among both men (49% support; 33% oppose) and women (47% vs. 39%). A 16-week ban has the support of 31% of people who say they'd vote for Joe Biden in November, 67% of those who say they'd vote for Trump, and 43% of those who say either that they're not sure who they'll vote for, would vote for a third-party candidate, or would plan to not vote.

More Americans say they support a 16-week abortion ban strongly (27%) than oppose it strongly (23%).

Americans are deeply divided about the country's ideal abortion policy.

Around one-quarter of Americans say abortion should always be legal, while just under one in ten say it should never be allowed. The rest are in between, with 29% saying abortion should be legal, but with some restrictions, while 38% say it should be legal only in special circumstances.

Consistent with their overall views on abortion, most Americans who believe all abortion should be legal oppose a 16-week ban, and most who believe no abortion should be legal support such a ban. (The survey did not explore why some people who support legal abortion might also support a 16-week ban, or why people who oppose legal abortion might oppose one.)

For the majority of Americans whose positions on abortion fall in between total legalization and a total ban, more people support than oppose a 16-week ban. Among the 29% of Americans who say abortion should be "legal, but with some restrictions," 44% support a 16-week ban, while 37% oppose one. Among the 38% who say abortion should "only be legal in special circumstances," 67% support a 16-week ban and 18% oppose one — levels of support and opposition very similar to those who say abortion should never be allowed (65% support, 23% oppose).

Americans who care most about abortion are most opposed to a 16-week ban

Americans' support for a 16-week ban does not necessarily account for other factors that have affected past abortion bans, such as the presence of exceptions for the life or health of the mother, or for cases of rape or incest.

This support is also concentrated among Americans who care less about abortion as an issue. Among Americans who say abortion is "somewhat important," "not very important," or "unimportant" as an issue, significantly more support a 16-week ban than oppose one. But among the 45% of U.S. adult citizens who say abortion is "very important," more Americans oppose a 16-week ban (47%) than support one (42%).

Carl Bialik contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on February 18 - 20, 2024 among 1,562 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

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