Public opinion on the legality of abortion has remained relatively stable for well over a decade, with slight majorities of the public consistently saying they favor keeping abortion legal. Polling conducted between 1995 and 2008 reveals that support for keeping abortion legal in all or most cases has fluctuated between 49% and 61% over the 13-year time period. Fewer Americans have tended to express support for making abortion illegal in all or most cases, ranging from a low of 36% to a high of 48% over the same period of time.
At the same time, large majorities have expressed support for the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established constitutional protections for women seeking an abortion. In October 1989, for instance, more than six-in-ten Americans (61%) said they would oppose seeing the U.S. Supreme Court completely overturn the Roe decision, while only one-in-three (33%) favored overturning Roe. Sixteen years later, in November 2005, two-thirds (65%) continued to express support for keeping Roe as the law of the land, while 26% supported overturning the decision.
An August 2008 poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press confirms that American opinion on this issue remains very much in line with this historical pattern. A slim majority of the public (54%) says abortion should be legal in all (17%) or most (37%) cases, while 41% say abortion should be illegal in all (15%) or most (26%) cases.
Read the full report A Slight but Steady Majority Favors Keeping Abortion Legal on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.