In states that have passed abortion bans, only 13 percent of people are in favor of the procedure being completely restricted, a new analysis of a recent 19th News/SurveyMonkey poll shows.
Despite huge differences in the legality of abortion across the United States in the months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, there is little difference in support for abortion being legal in all or most cases. There is, however, a persistent gender gap in opinion: Women are more likely to support accessible abortion than men, no matter the restrictions in their state of residence. In states that have banned abortion, Black Americans are significantly less likely to back restrictions than White Americans.
These insights come from a new analysis of a poll done in August comparing public opinion on abortion with the legal status of the procedure. States were sorted into four categories: abortion legal in all cases, banned anytime after 20 weeks, banned 20 weeks or earlier and illegal. (Weeks are calculated from the date of the last menstrual period.) Categories were based on laws passed, even if they aren’t currently being enforced, to reflect what decisions are being made by elected representatives in legislatures.
The analysis shows that when lawmakers are passing these bans, some of which lack any exceptions, including for rape, incest or fetal complications, they are reflecting the opinion of only a small minority of their residents.
While complete bans are slightly more supported in states that have passed them than in states with no or fewer restrictions, they’re still not popular. Nationwide, 10 percent of people think abortion should be illegal in all cases, compared with 13 percent in these states. In states with total bans, many residents – 52 percent – support abortion being legal in all or most cases.
When opinion on abortion is examined by gender, stark differences surface. Nationally, there is a nine-point difference between women and men, with women more likely to think abortion should be mostly or always legal. Gender-nonconforming people are also more likely to think abortion should be more accessible.
The overall share of people in favor of abortion access drops in places that have tried to ban abortion, but this gender gap persists. Fifty-seven percent of women who live in states where abortion has been banned think it should be legal all or most of the time, compared with 47 percent of men. In states where abortion is mostly illegal, it’s 63 percent of women versus 54 percent of men. (Within these categories, there was not a large enough sample size of gender-nonconforming people for analysis.)
In states where abortion has been outlawed, there isn’t a gender difference among people who want abortion to be banned — only 13 percent of men and women apiece.
This gender disparity is seen among nearly all racial groups as well. On a national scale, Black men and women are most likely to support abortion being legal all or most of the time (67 and 74 percent, respectively). Native American, White and Latina women are all more likely to support accessible abortion than men of their same race; the share of Asian men and women is comparable.
The figures in states that have passed abortion bans raise further questions about whose opinions are being most represented in the legislature. While there weren't large enough samples to compare across every racial or ethnic group, some patterns emerge. For instance, 49 percent of White people want abortion legal most or all of the time, but divvying up by gender shows that White men are less likely to support abortion rights (44 percent) than White women (54 percent). The gender gap persists among Black populations (59 percent of men versus 72 percent of women), and to a lesser extent Latinx populations (53 percent of men versus 58 percent of women).
The low levels of support for the restrictions now seen in 13 states, particularly among women of all races and Black men and women, raise questions about why such unpopular laws are proliferating in these Republican-run states. Men, especially White men, have been overrepresented in all levels of the United States government for decades. The most stringent restrictions on abortion are in states that have the highest Black populations, where the laws are clearly out of line with popular opinion. Mississippi, where the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization lawsuit originated, is the state where Black women are least represented in state legislatures compared to their share of the population.
Since the Dobbs decision, voters in one red state have had a chance to weigh in directly on whether they wanted to eliminate a constitutional protection against laws restricting abortion. Fifty-nine percent of voters in Kansas, which has a Democratic governor but went for Republican former President Donald Trump by 15 points, rejected that change, opting to preserve access. Voters will get to share their opinions on abortion legislation this November in five more states. That includes Kentucky, which went for Trump by 26 points and where abortion is currently banned with no exceptions beyond the case of endangering a parent’s life.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the difference in national opinion between men’s and women’s support for abortion.