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Study: Nearly 2 in 3 Americans believe abortion should be legal

In Alabama, 55 percent of people surveyed supported abortion being legal in most or all cases, while only 12 percent support abortion being illegal in all cases.

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When the U.S. Supreme announced its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, it reversed 50 years of precedent establishing a constitutional right to abortion.

But a new study from Public Religion Research Institute shows that 64 percent of Americans still believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

More specifically, 30 percent of Americans feel abortion should be legal in all cases and 34 percent support abortion being legal in most cases, while 25 percent of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in most cases and 9 percent believe it should be illegal in all cases.

While a smaller share of Alabamians believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, it is still a majority according to the study, with 55 percent of Alabama citizens supporting legality. Only 12 percent of Alabamians believe it should be illegal in all cases, despite the state’s law being one of the most restrictive in the country, including no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

The share of Americans who say abortion should be legal in most or all cases has continued to increase since PRRI began tracking abortion legality in 2010, when it was at 55 percent. The share of those who say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases has shrunk (from 42 percent in 2010 to 34 percent now), with the proportion who say abortion should be illegal in all cases seeing the largest decline (from 15 percent in 2010 to 9 percent now).

However, there has been little movement in attitudes about abortion’s legality in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June 2022.

As has been the case, there is a large split between party lines. In the Republican Party, two-thirds of Americans support abortion being illegal in most or all cases in contrast to the national figures. However, support for making abortion illegal in all cases has dropped drastically among the base from 21 percent in September 2021 to 14 percent in December 2022.

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Almost 9 in 10 Democrats say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, including 48 percent who believe it should be legal in all cases. 

The study found that factors of education level or race have less to do with respondents’ belief about abortion as majorities across every race and educational attainment believed abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

Uncertainty about the new post-Roe world has dropped considerably since the decision. Americans’ uncertainty about what would happen regarding abortion’s legality in their state decreased after the Dobbs decision. In the March wave of the American Values Atlas, nearly half of respondents (48 percent) said they did not know what the status of abortion law in their state would be in a post-Roe world. That declined to 38 percent in the June wave, and then dropped to 29 percent in August and 30 percent in December.

Only 25 percent of Americans said they will only vote for a candidate whose views on abortion align with their own. More than half (52 percent) said abortion is just one of many important factors to consider, while 20 percent said they do not see abortion as a major issue when voting.

A majority of Americans (53 percent) say Congress should pass a national law preserving a right to abortion, compared with 12 percent who say Congress should pass a national law banning abortion. About one-third (32 percent) say abortion law should be left to the states.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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