Forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, most Americans still support legal abortion — but less than half of young Americans know what the Roe ruling was about, a Pew survey has found.
In a poll of some 1,500 adults, most people above age 30 knew that the Roe decision was about abortion and not school desegregation, the death penalty or other major national issue.
But of adults ages 30 or younger, only 44 percent correctly identified Roe’s issue.
The Pew survey later explained that the Jan. 22, 1973, ruling “established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy,” and then asked if Roe should be overturned. Some 63 percent of respondents said they didn’t want to see Roe overturned, 29 percent said it should be overturned, and 7 percent declined to answer.
Data from Pew surveys from 2011 and 2012 show that the country generally is supportive of abortion: More than half of adults believe abortion should be legal in all cases (20 percent) or most cases (33 percent) cases. Among abortion opponents, 25 percent want it to be illegal in most cases and 16 percent want it illegal in all cases.
Other highlights from the Jan. 9-13 survey:
• Some 53 percent of adults say the abortion issue is “not that important compared to other issues.” Another 27 percent say abortion is “one among many important issues,” and 18 percent say it is “a critical issue facing the country.”
• White evangelicals and regular church-goers are most likely to approve the overturn of Roe. In contrast, the biggest supporters of Roe are persons without religious affiliation and white “mainline” Protestants.
• Nearly half of respondents — 47 percent — believe it is immoral to have an abortion. Another 27 percent say abortion is “not a moral issue,” 13 percent say it is “morally acceptable,” and 9 percent say “it depends.” (The rest have no opinion.)
The survey was conducted jointly by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.