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Rasmussen Reports find majority support for Dobbs when reminded the decision overturning Roe meant abortion would be decided by each state

by | Jun 30, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

By now, after five decades, pro-lifers appreciate how abortion polls can be so constructed that a pro-abortion conclusion is baked in. That starts with asking the wrong questions about the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson  Women’s Health Organization that overturned the odious 1973 Roe v. Wade and the 1992  Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions.

On Thursday, however, Rasmussen Reports ran a story under this eye-opener of a headline: “Majority Now Approve SCOTUS Abortion Ruling.”

Note the straightforward question: “Last year, the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, so that each state can now determine its own laws regarding abortion. Do you approve or disapprove of the court overturning Roe v. Wade?”

No tilt either way. Here’s some of the key breakdowns of the survey taken of 1,051 Likely Voters:

“The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 52% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of the court overturning Roe v. Wade, including 37% who Strongly Approve. Forty-four percent (44%) disapprove, including 36% who Strongly Disapprove of the decision. Last June, 50% approved of the Supreme Court’s ruling.”

Not surprisingly, Republican support the outcome —72%–more than Democrats but what is surprising is that a third of Democrats—34%–also approve. As always, Independents are pivotal with “51% approving the court’s decision returning abortion to states and 44% disapproving.”

So what exactly explains the different outcomes?

Other polls omitted the crucial fact that the abortion issue has now returned to the states; instead the question would just ask about whether they approved or disapproved of “overturning Roe” or overturning a woman’s “constitutional right” to have an abortion.

By contrast, the Rasmussen Reports matter-of-factly reminds Likely Voters that Dobbs means “that each state can now determine its own laws regarding abortion.”

Some more data from the Rasmussen Reports latest abortion poll:

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of men and 46% of women voters at least somewhat approve of the court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. …

Forty-nine percent (49%) of whites, 57% of black voters and 57% of other minorities at least somewhat approve of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

Eighty-nine percent (89%) of whites, 81% of black voters and 72% of other minorities think abortion will be at least a somewhat important issue in the 2024 election.

Voters 65 and older are most likely to approve of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, while those under 40 are most likely to think the abortion issue will be important in next year’s election.

Gallup released a poll on June 14 which asked different questions, such as under what circumstances abortion should be legal. The story was headlined “Broader Support for Abortion Rights Continues Post-Dobbs” which was true but misleading. 

The key difference from polls other than Gallup’s is that ever since 1975 Gallup has asked people what they meant when they say they believed abortion should be legal “only under certain circumstances.” Did that mean they want abortion to be legal “in most or only a few circumstances?”

Gallup’s Lydia Saad wrote, “Specifically, close to half of Americans, 47%, now say abortion should be legal in all (34%) or most (13%) circumstances, while a similar proportion, 49%, want it legal in only a few (36%) or illegal in all (13%) circumstances.”

What were the numbers a year ago in the post-Dobbs frenzy? 

Gallup found that 53% said abortion should be legal in all (35%) or most (18%) circumstances while 45% said it should be legal in few (32%) or no (13%) circumstances.

So on this benchmark question this year’s results showed a net gain of about 4% for the pro-life side. That is important to remember.