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The leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court that suggests the justices may soon overturn Roe v. Wade has made abortion one of the biggest political debates of the year. On Thursday, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a near-total ban on abortion. Our new PBS Newshour/NPR/Marist poll sheds new light on Americans’ views on the subject. Lisa Desjardins walks us through some of the numbers.
The leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court that suggests that the justices may soon overturn Roe v. Wade has made abortion one of the biggest political debates of the year.
Just today, the Oklahoma state legislature passed a near total ban on abortion. Our latest "PBS NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll sheds new light on Americans' views on the subject.
And Lisa Desjardins is here to walk through some of the numbers.
So, Lisa, hello. You have been looking, taking a hard look at this bowl and what it shows. So the court does seem poised maybe to overturn Roe. Where are Americans on this?
Judy, there is so much to talk about in this poll, I think something our viewers are going to be talking about themselves as well.
Let's start with a big headline. Americans overall do not support overturning Roe vs. Wade. Our figures show in this poll 33 percent of Americans only would support overturning it; 64 percent, two-thirds nearly, say, no, do not overturn it.
And I want to note that is a slight increase in those who want to overturn Roe from four years ago, but not a significant one. Really, this nation is divided, two-thirds who want to keep Roe and one-third who say overturn it.
Now, Lisa, you reported last night many Americans are in the middle, though, on abortion restrictions.
So tell us more about that part.
These were figures I was very interested to see.
Where are Americans now exactly? What do they want abortion policy to look at? Let's take a look at when you talk about what time in pregnancy abortion should be allowed in.
In general, about a quarter of Americans believe it should be allowed always, in every part of pregnancy, leave it up to the woman, the family involved. About another third or so say somewhere between three or six months is where there should be a limit, a ban. Another third says they are for specific exceptions only.
Now, specifically, we said in this poll, that means rape, incest, life of the mother. There is 9 percent, the smallest group here, who says never, abortion should not be allowed, no exceptions whatsoever.
So, if you look at this, you see that, clearly, the middle there is somewhere around three, six months. And that was reinforced by what we found in Pennsylvania.
I want to bring back another sound bite from that woman we talked to, Denise Donlon, who we met on her front porch.
Denise Donlon, Republican Voter:
Abortion is not birth control. And I think people are fine with abortion. And I do believe it's the right of women to choose for their own body. But I think there should be limitations, 15, 20 weeks.
And that's what our poll shows too, that a lot of Americans are where she is.
So, Lisa, we know that if the court moves in the direction it looks like they may be, this is going to — decisions are going to turn back to the states.
What are you seeing about what the states are looking at doing?
It's interesting Americans agree on some things that they oppose, that they say you go too far.
Let's look at that. These are ideas that we see in the states that Americans do not like. First of all, the idea of criminalizing this with doctors' fines or jail time for doctors, 75 percent say no. The ability to have civil lawsuits against abortion doctors, 80 percent say no. The idea of a ban after six or eight weeks, 69 percent say no.
These are ideas Americans in our survey say go too far. Where the gray area is, is so interesting. We also found that in our poll, and I want to show it right now. The gray areas here on a ban after 15 weeks, exactly what Denise Donlon was talking about, the nation is almost purely divided on whether that is a good idea or a bad idea.
Also, divide almost down the middle over the idea of whether it should be legal to mail abortion drugs to people at their home. That was a divide that also stood out in our poll.
It does raise a lot of questions about how people are coming to these conclusions, doesn't it?
That's right. And it shows it's a gray area, and people are not sure.
And, in fact, in this poll, we saw some conflicts within these results that were — raise questions.
Yes, it reminds us what a tough issue it is.
And, finally, Lisa, in the poll, people were asked questions about their view of the Supreme Court and of the Congress.
This is something that we have seen change dramatically.
And I want to look at this question of, do you have confidence in the Supreme Court? A simple question. Here's what our survey told us from people that we talked to right now, the top answer; 40 percent only said they have confidence. A majority, 56 percent, said no. That is almost a perfect flip, Judy, from four years ago, July of 2018, when a majority, 57 percent, said they do have confidence in the Supreme Court; 38 percent said they do not.
So we're really seeing, I think, in this the battles over Supreme Court nominations and, of course, this leaked opinion. What does this all mean for the midterms? The stakes are so high this year, control of the Senate, control of the House on the table. Democrats have had an enthusiasm problem. We have reported on that in our polls before.
We asked, are you more likely to vote because of the leaked opinion? Here's what we got in our survey. Democrats, 66 percent said yes, Republicans, just 40 percent, independents, 46 percent. That Democratic number is something they are going to pay a lot of attention to.
And this is before the actual opinion, of course, has come out, before we know for sure what the Supreme Court is doing. But this is something that may charge up Democrats, who've had a president with low approval ratings, and have not been able to find that enthusiasm elsewhere.
It certainly looks that way.
And, of course, we will see when that opinion does finally come out.
I think just weeks away.
Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much.
And a reminder that you can dig into these poll results and more on our Web site. That's PBS.org/NewsHour.
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