Support for Roe v. Wade hits record high ahead of Supreme Court confirmation battle: NBC-WSJ poll

Mark Wilson | Getty Images
WASHINGTON - JANUARY 22: Pro-choice advocates participate in protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building January 22, 2010 in Washington, DC. Activists from across the nation gathered to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which decriminalized abortion in all fifty states. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the United States, has hit a record high in a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll ahead of the battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the high court.

The survey shows that 71 percent of Americans believe that Roe should not be overturned, while only 23 percent want the ruling reversed. Supporters of the ruling include 88 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans.

This is the highest level of support for the ruling, and the lowest level of voters who want Roe overturned, in the NBC-WSJ poll’s history dating back to 2005. For historical perspective, a Gallup poll in 1989 showed that 58 percent of voters supported the ruling, while 31 percent wanted it overturned.

Defenders of abortion rights are concerned that Kavanaugh, who has a conservative track record on the federal bench, could fundamentally change the balance of the top court and put Roe at risk.

If confirmed by the Senate, Kavanaugh will succeed retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who was the pivotal vote in 1992 in a decision that upheld Roe.

The NBC-WSJ poll also showed that more voters are likely to support a political candidate who backs abortion rights rather than one who opposes them. Forty-four percent of voters said they are more likely to vote for a pro-abortion-rights candidate, while 26 percent said they are more likely to support a candidate who backs restrictions on abortions. Twenty-nine percent said a candidate’s views on abortion makes no difference to them.

Public opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the court is higher than it was in advance of several of his predecessors’ confirmations.

Jim Bourg | Reuters
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh looks at U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2018.

Thirty-two percent of those surveyed said they back his nomination, while 26 percent said he should not be confirmed. Trump’s previous Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, received support from 32 percent, compared with 20 percent opposition.

Opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation is particularly pronounced among Democrats, 10 percent of whom support and 52 percent of whom oppose his confirmation. Nine percent of African-Americans support the confirmation while 38 percent oppose it, and 21 percent of college-educated women support Kavanaugh compared with 38 percent who oppose him.

Despite controversy over the ideological cast of the court, the Supreme Court has reached its most positive public image since the poll began measuring its popularity in 1992. Half of voters have a positive view of the court, compared with just 17 percent who do not. In July 2015, 39 percent had a positive view of the court, while 32 percent had a negative one.

This shift in perception is due primarily to Republican voters, whose support of Christian religious freedom and the president’s controversial travel ban has been largely reinforced by the GOP-controlled Congress.

The poll reached 900 registered voters and had an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.

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