Wednesday May 5, 2010

Poll: Support Growing for Overturning Roe

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 2010 ( – Support for overturning Roe v. Wade is the highest among American adults since 2005, according to a Washington Post/ABC telephone survey released Friday. At the same time, however, a significantly larger number of respondents to the survey said that they would like to see Roe kept intact.

The poll presented a series of questions regarding what Americans would like to see in President Obama’s choice for the next Supreme Court judge. About 60 percent of adults said they would support a justice who would keep intact Roe, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the United States, while 38 percent hoped to see a judge appointed who would overturn it.

The question put to those on the telephone survey was: “The Supreme Court legalized abortion 37 years ago in the ruling known as Roe versus Wade. If that case came before the court again, would you want the next justice to vote to (uphold) Roe versus Wade, or vote to (overturn) it?”

Ed Whelan on National Review Online said, however, that the apparent support for Roe may have stemmed from the fact that the question was “drafted in a way that predictably understates support for overturning Roe.” “The phrase ‘legalized abortion’ could easily lead respondents to believe that the effect of overturning Roe would be to make abortion illegal, when it would in fact be to restore abortion policy to the democratic processes,” he wrote Wednesday. “Nor, of course, does the question reveal how extreme the Roe/Casey regime is and how it prevents implementation of measures that Americans overwhelmingly support.”

Whelan pointed to a survey jointly commissioned by the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Judicial Confirmation Network three years ago that showed “even a brief education about what Roe really means” led to a 16-point shift in opinion against the controversial decision.

The Post states that the number favoring Roe has varied little in previous polls, but the number against the decision is the highest in the Post-ABC survey since 2005.

The shift was located largely among those identifying as Republicans: when given the same question in reference to Justice Sonia Sotomayor last year, 54 percent of GOP members were against Roe, whereas about 60 percent say they feel the same now. Only about 50 percent of Republicans said they hoped to see Roe overturned when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. were nominated in 2005.

In addition, the Post/ABC poll found that 26 percent consider the current Supreme Court too liberal, and 21 percent consider it too conservative – a shift from results three years ago, where only 18 percent thought the rulings were too liberal, while 31 percent called them too conservative. Forty-six percent of respondents feel the court is balanced, about the same figure as found in previous polls.

See related coverage:

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg: I Thought Roe Would Help Eradicate Unwanted Populations Through Abortion