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Poll: Majority of adults don't support overturning Roe v. Wade

Sixty-six percent of adults say they don't think the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade, according to an NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking poll.
Abortion rights activists protest outside the Supreme Court on March 4.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A majority of American adults say they don't support the Supreme Court's completely overturning Roe v. Wade, according to new data from the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll.

Sixty-six percent of adults say they don't believe the Supreme Court should completely overturn the decision that established a woman's right to an abortion nationwide in at least the first three months of a pregnancy. Twenty-nine percent of adults say they do want the court to completely overturn the ruling.

The landmark 1973 decision found that a woman's constitutional right to privacy protected her choice of whether to have an abortion, although it also allowed states to more heavily regulate access to abortion after the first trimester. Before Roe v. Wade, states were largely unrestricted in regulating access to abortion at any point in a pregnancy.

Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor of preserving the decision — 86 percent say it shouldn't be overturned, while 12 percent believe it should be overturned.

Independents feel similarly — 71 percent want to preserve the ruling, while 25 percent want to see it overturned.

Republicans are virtually split, with 50 percent supporting overturning Roe and 47 percent saying it shouldn't be overturned.

President Donald Trump nominated federal appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court seat left vacant after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The nomination has sparked questions about whether a more conservative-leaning court could re-examine issues like abortion — Trump has said he would nominate only anti-abortion rights judges to sit on the court.

In a 2013 article in the Texas Law Review, Barrett cited Roe v. Wade when she wrote, "If anything, the public response to controversial cases like Roe reflects public rejection of the proposition that [precedent] can declare a permanent victor in a divisive constitutional struggle rather than desire that precedent remain forever unchanging."

Barrett, however, has said that she doesn't believe the Supreme Court would ever fully overturn abortion rights — rather that the court may change how much power states have to regulate abortions.

In a speech at the University of Notre Dame in 2013, Barrett said, "The fundamental element, that the woman has a right to choose abortion, will probably stand." And in 2016, she said: "I don't think abortion or the right to abortion would change. I think some of the restrictions would change."

After he nominated her, Trump said in a "Fox and Friends" interview that with Barrett on the court, overturning Roe v. Wade was "certainly possible."

"And maybe they do it in a different way. Maybe they'd give it back to the states. You just don't know what's going to happen," he said.

Many conservatives have pushed for the court to re-examine Roe — Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., tweeted this month that he would vote only for Supreme Court nominees who believe "Roe was wrongly decided."

The new data tracks with other polls that show that the majority of Americans don't want to see Roe v. Wade completely overturned and generally agree with a women's right to have an abortion with certain restrictions.

The timing of Barrett's nomination is also controversial. Last week, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 57 percent of Americans thought the candidate who wins the Nov. 3 election should fill the vacant seat. And two NBC News/Marist College polls showed that a majority of likely voters in Michigan and Wisconsin agreed that the election winner should make the nomination.

The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., announced that Barrett's confirmation hearings would begin Oct. 12 — just 22 days before the election. Democrats have criticized Republicans for moving forward with the nomination and the confirmation process so close to the election after having blocked President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland in March 2016.

While Democrats have promised to try to block Barrett's confirmation, only two Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have joined with them to say a nominee shouldn't be confirmed until after the election, so there's little that Democrats can do to delay the process.

Data come from a set of SurveyMonkey online polls conducted Sept. 21-27, 2020, among a national sample of 48,241 adults in the U.S. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education and geography using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States ages 18 and over.