THE CONVERSATION – The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, nearly a month after a leak draft majority opinion show it the court could enforce a Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
A decision to uphold this ban could nullify a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, guaranteed by Roe v. Wade in 1973, and return the decision to the States.
Most Americans does not support reversal Roe v. Wade, and held this view for some time.
According to a Pew Research March 2022 Poll.
But national public opinion don’t do often influence the decisions of the Supreme Court.
As a teacher a political scientist who studies gender and public opinion, I believe that while general national opinion polls on abortion are important, too much emphasis on it can be misleading. When it comes to how public opinion can shape the debate, it is essential to pay attention to opinions in different states and among special interest groups.
Public Opinion on Abortion
Survey since 1995 constantly showed that most Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
But beyond these general trends, people’s backgrounds and specific characteristics tend to guide their opinions on this controversial topic.
Some may be surprised to know that research consistently shows that gender does not greatly influences people’s opinion on abortion. Women are slightly more supportive of keeping abortion legal, but the gap between how women and men feel about it is small.
But other features matter a lot. Currently, the biggest dividing line on abortion beliefs is partisanship.
An overwhelming 80% of Democrats support legal abortion in all or most cases, while only 38% of Republicans do, according to a 2022 study Research bench survey. The divide between Democrats and Republicans on this issue widened over the past decades.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Republicans and Democrats supported abortion rights at fairly similar rates. Research finds partisan divide on abortion “increased from 1 point during the period from 1972 to 1986 to almost 29 points during the period from 2014 to 2017.”
Religion also continues to play an important role in supporting abortion. White evangelical Christians are particularly in favor to quash Roe v. Wade, but most other people who identify as religious are ambivalent or remain supportive of precedent.
As a result, support for abortion varies widely by state, ranging from 34% in Louisiana to 72% in Vermont, according to the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2018 survey of 50 States.
So when West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, blocked one bill in February 2022 that would have protected the federal right to abortion, he was consistent with the views of his constituents. In West Virginia, only 40% support legal abortion in all or most cases.
The history of attitudes towards abortion
Even after the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion was not as a supporter of a problem as it is today. It’s only the late 1970s and early 1980s that politicians have tried to use views on abortion as a way to gain votes.
But as religious conservative political movements grew up in the In the United States, abortion became more politicized over the next few decades.
In the 1970s, Democrats and Republicans in Congress were internally divided on abortion. The Republican National Committee, for example, was co-chaired by Mary Dent Crisp, who supported abortion rights. In the 1980s, conservative activists pushed Crisp out of position.
George HW Bush also presented himself as a moderate on abortion in the 1980 Republican presidential primary. But when Bush lost the first offer and became Ronald Reagan’s running mate that year his position changed. Bush opposes abortion by the time he ran for president in 1988.
This change reflects the growing importance of the Christian right in Republican electoral politics at this time.
President Joe Biden made a similar change in its support for abortion over time. Biden opposed the use of federal funds for abortion early in his congressional career, but has taken a more liberal stance in recent years and now views abortion as a essential part of health care.
What opinions matter?
Even though overall public support for abortion nationwide has remained relatively high since the 1990s, this masks how subsets of people, such as those on the Christian right who are strongly committed to abortion , can reshape politics.
Public opinion at the state level also matters. Attitudes toward abortion vary widely from state to state — and state-level policy polarized over time, creating greater political differences in conservative and liberal states.
This Questions because states have an outsized influence on abortion policy. Because much of the federal debate revolves around Roe, the Senate has been an important gatekeeper for Supreme Court justices, who will determine whether to overrule Roe.
This difference poses a fundamental challenge for people who want a single national policy on abortion – whether or not they support allowing someone to have an abortion in all or most cases.
The varied opinions on abortion also offer a reminder of the type of public opinion that matters most in democratic politics. This is not the version of public opinion that emerges from national surveys representative of the American people. Instead, the most influential type of opinion is organized political activity that can pressure the government and shape electoral choices and legislative options.