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Majority of Americans say it was wrong for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe

Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Nov. 16, 2022.
Patrick Semansky
Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Nov. 16, 2022.

A majority of Americans say they oppose the Supreme Court's decision a year ago to overturn Roe v. Wade, want to see affirmative-action programs in college admissions continue and have little confidence in this current court, the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist pollfinds.

The survey of 1,327 adults, conducted from June 12 through 14, also explored the thorny issue of gender-identity politics, finding that most people think gender is determined by birth. They don't want to completely limit the ability for people to have access to gender transition-related health care, but there are sharp divides about when that care should be available.

Warning signs continue for Republicans on abortion rights

The issue of abortion rights played a significant role in the 2022 midterm elections, helping Democrats, and it figures to be a factor in the upcoming presidential election as well.

  • 57% oppose the court's overturning of Roe, which guaranteed the right to an abortion in this country. There was, of course, a sharp partisan divide with three-quarters of Democrats and almost 6-in-10 independents against it, but two-thirds of Republicans in favor.


  • Notably, in this survey, 66% of women who live in small cities and suburbs, as well as 63% of independent women opposed the decision. Those are key swing groups.

Majority wants affirmative action programs to continue

  • Similarly to Roe, 57% also say they think affirmative action programs in hiring, promoting and college admissions should be continued. More than three-quarters of Democrats said so, but almost 6-in-10 Republicans disagreed.

  • Independents were split, 50%-46% in favor of keeping affirmative action programs.


  • There was a racial divide with 66% of nonwhites saying they want the programs to continue, but a majority (52%) of whites also said so.

  • There was a major divide by age — with those under 45 almost 20 points more likely to say they want the programs to continue than those older than 45 (67% to 48%).
  • There was also a big gender divide, especially in small towns and suburbs. Overall, by a 62%-to-50% margin, women were more likely than men to say these programs should continue. In small cities and suburbs, the split was 62%-to-48%.

Lack of confidence in conservative-majority court

  • By a 59%-to-39% margin, respondents said they have very little or no confidence at all in the Supreme Court.

  • A majority of Republicans do have confidence (53%), but 62% of independents and 61% of women who live in small cities and suburbs do not.

Majority says gender is defined by birth

Conservatives continue to use gender-identity politics as a culture-war issue, and they have appeared to make inroads with their messaging, the survey found.

  • By a 61%-to-36% margin, respondents said the only way to define male and female in society is by the sex listed on a person's original birth certificate.

  • There has been a 16-point net change in favor of saying the only definition is by birth certificate since Marist asked the question in May 2022. (Then it was 51%-42%.)

  • There is a huge political divide. Nearly 9-in-10 Republicans and 6-in-10 independents hold these views, but almost 6-in-10 Democrats said that definition is out of date and needs to be updated to include identity.


Divide over access to gender transition-related health care

  • The plurality of respondents (45%) said only adults 18 or older should have access to gender transition-related health care. That includes majorities of Republicans and independents.

  • Another 31% said it should be available to those 18 or older and those under 18 with parental consent. A slim majority of Democrats agreed with this. Another 31% of Democrats said it should only be available to adults.

  • A quarter said no one, regardless of age, should. Republican women were the most likely to say this (43%).

The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. There are 1,212 registered voters in the survey and when they are referenced, there is a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: June 20, 2023 at 11:00 PM CDT
In a previous audio version, we incorrectly said roughly 6 in 10 Democrats do not want to see affirmative action programs continued in hiring, promoting and college admissions. Roughly 6 in 10 Republicans expressed that view.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.