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CNN Poll: Americans still broadly oppose overturning Roe; they’re less united on what abortion laws should look like

By Ariel Edwards-Levy, CNN

(CNN) — Nearly two years after the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, Americans remain broadly opposed to the ruling, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. But in the midst of a presidential campaign where the major candidates offer starkly different approaches to the issue, the country is less united over how best to handle abortion laws, the survey finds.

The country’s widespread opposition to the 2022 Supreme Court decision, which held that women do not have a federal constitutional right to an abortion, does not translate into equally broad support for taking federal action to protect abortion access. Roughly half of US adults, 49%, want to see federal politicians work to enshrine abortion access nationally, while 37% say abortion laws should be left to states, and 14% call for nationwide restrictions.

About two-thirds (65%) oppose the 2022 Supreme Court decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and 34% approve, numbers that have remained effectively unchanged in CNN’s polling across the nearly two years since the ruling. Those who strongly disapprove of the decision continue to outnumber those who strongly approve by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

A 69% majority who disapprove of overturning Roe, including 82% of those who strongly disapprove, say that federal politicians should work to pass laws ensuring national abortion access. Those who support the ruling largely say federal politicians shouldn’t take action on the issue: 59% say laws on abortion should be left up to the states, with 29% in favor of further restrictions to abortion access nationwide. New national restrictions are supported by just about one-quarter of Republicans, White Evangelical Christians and those who describe themselves as conservative.

The poll comes in the wake of two years of largely state-level skirmishes over abortion laws following the overturn of Roe – political fights with tangible consequences for residents’ access to abortion in those states. Last month, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled to revive a Civil War-era abortion ban in the state, which the state’s House voted last week to repeal.

Overall, a 45% plurality of Americans say that the laws governing abortion in their own state are currently about right, similar to a year ago, with 37% calling them too restrictive and 17% too permissive.

The share who view their state’s abortion laws as too restrictive rises to 43% in the states where abortion is currently legal with gestational limits of 6-18 weeks, and to 52% in the states where it is banned. Among those who disapprove of overturning Roe, about two-thirds (64%) in states with gestational limits and three-quarters (74%) in states where abortion is banned find their state’s laws too restrictive.

Abortion policy is also shaping up as an election issue. President Joe Biden is making support for abortion rights a focal point of his presidential campaign. His Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump, has recently distanced himself from GOP-led pushes for a national ban, saying that abortion regulations should be left to the states, although he refused in a recent Time interview to commit to vetoing a federal abortion ban or to say if he’d support states prosecuting women who sought abortions, reiterating that the decision is up to the states.

While polling finds a clear public consensus against the decision to overturn Roe, it offers a less precise answer on the role the fight over abortion policy might play in voters’ decisions this year. Laws on the issue now differ starkly from state to state, and abortion is likely to be directly on the ballot in some states but not others: Florida, Maryland and New York will all vote on measures to establish new protections for abortion, while 10 other states are currently considering adding abortion-related measures to the November ballot.

About one-quarter of registered voters, 24%, say that they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion, with 55% saying they’d consider a candidate’s abortion position as one of many important factors when voting, and 21% saying they wouldn’t see abortion as a major issue.

The share who say they’d only support politicians they agreed with on abortion represents a downtick from the 31% of registered voters who said the same in July 2023. That decline comes largely from the voters who supported the decision to overturn Roe, suggesting that any motivation advantage on this issue lies with proponents of abortion rights. Last summer, voters who disapproved of the Dobbs decision were 4 points likelier than those who approved of it to say they viewed the issue as a litmus test, 32% to 28%. That gap has now widened to 10 points, 27% to 17%.

How does that translate into voters’ initial decisions when it comes to the 2024 presidential candidates? Among registered voters who disapprove of the Dobbs decision and say they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views, 81% currently say they’d back Biden against Trump, with 14% currently backing Trump. Among those who disapprove of Dobbs but say it’s just one of many issues important to them, 6 in 10 back Biden, with 32% supporting Trump.

Among those registered voters who disapprove of overturning Roe and aren’t currently backing Biden, 15% say they’d consider voting for him, slightly higher than the 9% of non-Biden-supporters overall who currently say they’d consider voting to reelect the president.

Among all adults, Biden’s approval rating for handling abortion policy stands at 42%, similar to his overall job approval, the poll finds, although a 62% majority of those who want to see abortion access protected nationally approve.

Most Americans, 58%, say they believe Biden will work to enact national laws ensuring access to abortion if he’s reelected this year, with 29% saying he’ll leave abortion laws up to the states and 13% that he’ll work to enact national laws restricting abortion. By contrast, a 54% majority say they think Trump will leave abortion laws up to the states if he wins the election, with 34% expecting Trump to work toward restricting abortion nationally, and 12% expecting him to work toward ensuring access.

Democratic and Democratic-leaning adults are 36 percentage points likelier than Republican-aligned adults to expect that Trump would work to restrict abortion nationwide (53% to 17%), while there is little partisan divide in expectations for Biden.

In a previous release from the same poll, 42% of registered voters said that abortion would be extremely important to their presidential vote this year, trailing the majorities who said the same of the economy and protecting democracy. But the issue holds more importance among self-described liberals (63%), female independents (59%), and both male and female Democrats (52% for each), all groups whose turnout is likely to be a focus for the Biden campaign.

About one-third (32%) of Americans nationally now say they consider a woman’s right to use contraception as a threatened right likely to be overturned, up from 23% who considered that right threatened in May 2022. Women are 10 points likelier than men to say they view the right to use contraception as threatened.

The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS from April 18-23 among a random national sample of 1,212 adults drawn from a probability-based panel, including 967 registered voters. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results among the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, for results among registered voters, it is plus or minus 3.8 points.

CNN’s Jennifer Agiesta and Ed Wu contributed to this report.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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