What Americans Think About Roe v. Wade

Posted June 21, 2005 at 3:24pm

With a Supreme Court vacancy considered likely soon, the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade will almost certainly return to a central place on the national agenda. [IMGCAP(1)]

In 1989, when the Gallup Organization asked people whether they would like to see the Supreme Court “completely overturn its Roe v. Wade decision,” 33 percent said they would like it overturned and 61 percent said they were opposed to overturning it.

When Pew updated the question this month, the results were virtually identical — 30 percent to 63 percent.

Indeed, opinion on abortion has barely budged over the past 30 years. Generally speaking, Americans want to keep abortion legal, but they are willing to put restrictions on its use.

The public tends to favor waiting periods, spousal notification and parental consent for a minor’s abortion. Americans support first-term abortions but oppose second- and third-trimester ones. Pluralities or majorities generally say it is murder; majorities also say it should be a personal choice.

How Many Casualties? In early June, when the Pew Research Center asked how many U.S. soldiers had been killed since the start of military action in Iraq, 54 percent answered correctly that the number was between 1,000 to 2,000. A quarter thought there had been more than 2,000 casualties, and 17 percent under 1,000.

In the meantime, Iraq ranks as the top issue in many polls that ask about the country’s most important problem.

Estate Tax Repeal. In March, The New York Times asked people whether they favored or opposed a tax on assets when someone dies.

The tax was described this way: “Currently the federal government taxes the assets — that is, the property and money — someone leaves when they die if the assets are worth more than a certain amount of money.”

Seventeen percent were in favor of a tax on assets at death; 76 percent were opposed. Those who were opposed were then asked how they would feel if the estate tax was collected on estates worth more than $1.5 million. This group was still opposed, though by a slimmer margin of 46 percent to 27 percent.

The next question in the survey told respondents that “under current law, the federal tax on estates would be phased out between now and 2010, when there will be no tax on estates at all. Unless Congress acts, the tax cut will then expire and the tax will be again be [sic] collected on estates worth more than $1 million.”

Twenty-three percent responded that the government should tax estates worth more than $1 million, and 20 percent wanted to tax those worth more than $3.5 million. Fifty percent wanted to eliminate all estate taxes.

Vacation Time. Last August, Gallup asked Americans how satisfied they were with various aspects of their jobs. Fifty-two percent of employed people said they were completely satisfied with the amount of vacation time they received, and 27 percent were somewhat satisfied. Just 9 percent reported being somewhat dissatisfied, and 8 percent completely so. These responses have been stable in six other iterations of the question since 1993.

Wills and Living Wills. Half of Americans told Gallup this spring that they had a will and half did not. People age 50 and over were more likely to have one (71 percent) than those under 50 (37 percent). Forty percent had living wills. Here too, older people were more likely than younger ones to have living wills.

Smokers’ Corners. Gallup and Pew recently released questions about smoking. In a large panel study conducted by Gallup between November 2004 and January 2005, 15 percent reported that they smoked daily and 5 percent said they smoked on some days. Pew asked people in March whether they smoked on a regular basis, and 18 percent — down from 24 percent in 1999 — reported that they did.

Three percent in the Gallup survey said they used chewing tobacco or snuff daily or occasionally. Forty-seven percent said they smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes.

Texans for Bush. Frank Newport and Joe Carroll of the Gallup Organization recently took a look at Bush’s popularity in his home state. By combining all the Gallup surveys since March, they created a large enough sample to look at Texans’ views. Sixty-one percent of Texans approved.

By contrast, the national approval rating for the period was 49 percent.

Karlyn Bowman is a resident fellow specializing in public opinion and polls at the American Enterprise Institute.