As the Supreme Court weighs one of the most significant abortion cases in a generation, new polling finds Americans are largely dissatisfied with the nation’s abortion laws — but not in the way you might expect.
Americans’ satisfaction with U.S. abortion laws is at a two-decade low of 24%, according to the Gallup Poll. However, the percentage saying they are dissatisfied because they think the laws should be less strict — a “pro-choice” position on abortion — is at a new high of 30%.
A smaller share of the population, 22%, is dissatisfied because they believe the laws should be stricter.
These data come from a Jan. 3-16 poll and demonstrate a change from the prior two decades, when more Americans were more likely to be dissatisfied with abortion laws because they believed they were not strict enough.
In sum, 24% of Americans said they are satisfied with current U.S. abortion policies, while 66% are dissatisfied and 9% have no opinion. Gallup explained that the dissatisfied group includes 14% who initially say they are dissatisfied but, when probed, say the laws should remain as they are. This is in addition to the 22% dissatisfied who want stricter laws and the 30% dissatisfied who want less-strict laws.
Gallup has asked these questions about abortion laws every year since 2001. From 2001 to 2014, the percentage who said they were satisfied with America’s abortion laws held steady at about 40%, then dropped into the low 30s. This year, the percentage who are dissatisfied dropped eight points — from 33% last year to 24% this year.
Ironically, as the nation’s conservatives have moved closer to their dream of overturning Roe v. Wade with a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, the gap between those who think current laws are too strict or not strict enough has narrowed, Gallup reported.
“From 2001 to 2017, significantly more Americans were dissatisfied that the laws were too lax rather than too strict. In 2018, after the seating of President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, the gap narrowed to three points, and it remained close through most of Trump’s term as two more conservative justices were added to the bench. The gap widened to 10 points in 2021, in the two weeks leading up to President Joe Biden’s taking office, with still more wanting stricter rather than less-strict laws.”
But in conjunction with the controversial Texas ban on almost all abortions — which the Supreme Court has let stand for now — national attitudes have flipped to favor those who fear current laws are too strict.
The high court is currently deliberating not only the Texas case but a Mississippi case that both sides believe could cripple or overturn Roe v. Wade — something Gallup finds Americans oppose by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
The bottom line, according to Gallup, is this: “Americans grew more dissatisfied with the strictness of abortion laws in the nation during the Trump presidency, likely reflecting concerns about the increasingly conservative Supreme Court as well as a host of abortion restrictions that were adopted at the state level in those years. After a dip in concern in 2021, that discontent has surged again in 2022.”
Let’s begin again: The birds, the bees and abortions | Opinion by Erica Whitaker