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NBC News poll shows nation's demographic divides on abortion

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
An abortion rights activist demonstrates in the middle of anti-abortion activists in front of the Supreme Court during the March For Life in Washington on Jan. 27, 2017.
An abortion rights activist demonstrates in the middle of anti-abortion activists in front of the Supreme Court during the March For Life in Washington on Jan. 27, 2017.Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The issue of abortion has come roaring back in today’s political news — with a Texas law essentially outlawing almost all abortions in the state that went into effect at midnight.

And the issue has the potential to upend politics in 2022 and 2024 — with the U.S. Supreme Court taking up a case that could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

New numbers from our most recent NBC poll show a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

That includes clear majorities of women, young Americans, whites with college degrees and those living in the suburbs.

But majorities and pluralities of evangelical Christians, rural Americans, older Americans and southerners say that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Here are the numbers:

  • All adults: 54 percent legal, 42 percent illegal (was 44 percent legal, 54 percent illegal in 2003)
  • 18-34: 65 percent legal, 32 percent illegal
  • 65+: 48 percent-49 percent
  • 18-44: 60 percent-37 percent
  • 60+: 48 percent-49 percent
  • Whites: 51 percent-46 percent
  • Blacks: 55 percent-39 percent
  • Latinos: 63 percent-35 percent
  • Men: 49 percent-47 percent
  • Women: 59 percent-38 percent
  • Whites with college: 60 percent-37 percent
  • Whites without college: 46 percent-50 percent
  • Urban: 65 percent-34 percent
  • Suburban: 54 percent-42 percent
  • Rural: 33 percent-63 percent
  • Northeast: 65 percent-34 percent
  • Midwest: 49 percent-48 percent
  • South: 43 percent-52 percent
  • West: 65 percent-31 percent
  • Evangelicals: 26 percent-70 percent
  • Non-evangelicals: 65 percent-32 percent

One other thing to consider in this debate: Much of the country appears to be in the middle on abortion, with our poll finding 23 percent of Americans saying abortion should be legal “most of the time,” and another 34 percent saying it should be illegal “with exceptions.”

By contrast, 31 percent believe abortion should “always” be legal, and 8 percent say it should be illegal “without any exceptions.”

So there is a middle in this debate.

It’s just that our present political system — and our political parties — can’t handle the middle anymore, especially on abortion.

And especially as Texas bans the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The dog that finally caught up to the car

It’s unclear if the Supreme Court will overturn Roe heading into 2022 and 2024, but the GOP sure looks like the dog that finally caught up to the car when it comes to abortion.

And the question is what happens to the Republican Party in states like Georgia, Florida and Texas that are hanging by a thread.

Tweet of the day

What is McCarthy afraid of?

Meanwhile, regarding the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy threatened telecom companies if they turned over phone records that the Democratic majority has requested.

"If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy said yesterday. (Though McCarthy didn’t spell out what law they’d be violating.)

He continued, “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.”

Democrats on the select Jan. 6 committee fired back at McCarthy with this statement, per NBC’s Haley Talbot: “The Select Committee is investigating the violent attack on the Capitol and attempt to overturn the results of last year’s election. We’ve asked companies not to destroy records that may help answer questions for the American people. The committee’s efforts won’t be deterred by those who want to whitewash or cover up the events of January 6th, or obstruct our investigation.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

5: The number of service members missing after a helicopter crash off the coast of San Diego.

14 million: The number of Covid-19 vaccinations in America in August, as the rate picked up amid the Delta variant surge.

39,337,386: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 173,637 more since yesterday morning.)

644,200: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,247 more since yesterday morning).

370,212,027: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 655,116 more since yesterday morning.)

52.4 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

63.5 percent: The share of all U.S. adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

Shameless plug

Tonight on “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,” NBC News Senior National Correspondent Kate Snow will reveal the results of a new study from the CDC and the National PTA, which focuses on how parents nationwide are feeling as schools reopen.

Snow also will host a Facebook live town hall at 1:00 pm ET, and interview Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, with portions airing across NBC News.

The reporting is part of NBC News’ “Kids Under Pressure” series, which looks at the toll of the pandemic on student education and mental health.

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A man has been arrested for trying to convince Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz’s family to give him $25 million in exchange for a pardon from former President Donald Trump.

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