Support for abortion rights hits new high as midterm outlook is grim for Democrats

Mark Murray
Abortion rights campaigners participate in a demonstration following the leaked Supreme Court opinion suggesting the possibility of overturning the Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision, in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2022. 
Amira Karaoud | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Support for abortion rights has reached a record high, and nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, according to a new national NBC News poll conducted after the leak of a draft opinion that would strike down the constitutional right to abortion.

What's more, the survey finds abortion climbing up the list of issues that Americans believe are the most important, and that Democratic interest in the upcoming midterms has increased since earlier this year.

But the poll also found that this Supreme Court draft opinion hasn't substantially altered the overall political environment heading into November's elections — with inflation and the economy remaining the public's top issues, President Joe Biden's job rating falling below 40 percent and a whopping 75 percent of Americans saying the country is headed in the wrong direction.

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It's the fourth straight NBC News poll with the wrong-track number higher than 70 percent, and the fifth time in the poll's 34-year history when the wrong-track number hit 75 percent or higher. 

The other times were in 2008 (during the Great Recession) and 2013 (during a government shutdown). 

"It is a flashing red light when you see a number like this," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates. 

"Americans are telling us this is as bad as 2008," McInturff added. 

Yet given these numbers, Democrats are still tied with Republicans in the poll's question of which party should control Congress.  

"It is remarkable that preference for control of Congress is even overall, and that the gap in interest in the election has narrowed," said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster. 

Six in 10 say abortion should be legal

According to the poll, a combined 60 percent of Americans say abortion should be either always legal (37 percent) or legal most of the time (23 percent) — the highest share believing it should be legal on this question, which dates back to 2003. 

By contrast, a combined 37 percent say abortion should be illegal either with exceptions (32 percent) or without exceptions (5 percent).  

By party, 84 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents want abortion to be legal, versus just 33 percent of Republicans. 

Additionally, 63 percent of respondents oppose the Supreme Court overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy.

Thirty percent would support the court overturning the decision.

When this question was last asked in 2018, 71 percent said they opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, while 23 percent said they supported it. 

And a majority of registered voters — 52 percent — say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade; 26 percent say they are more likely to vote for this candidate. 

Biden's job rating falls to 39 percent

The NBC News poll also finds 39 percent of Americans approving of President Biden's job as president, versus 56 percent who say they disapprove. 

While Biden's approval rating is essentially unchanged from March's poll — when it was at 40 percent — the new number represents the lowest mark of his presidency. 

Only 33 percent approve of Biden's handling of the economy (unchanged from March), 41 percent approve of his handling of the war between Russia and Ukraine (also unchanged) and 59 percent approve of the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic (up 8 points).