MILWAUKEE —Forty-nine years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a constitutional right to abortion, the public opposes overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling but is closely divided on limiting abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

A new Marquette Law School Poll national Supreme Court survey finds that, among those with an opinion on Roe, 28% say they are in favor of overturning the decision and 72% are opposed to overturning it. The case before the Court that includes argument for overturning RoeDobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerns a Mississippi law that restricts abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Asked about that specific restriction, among those with an opinion, 49% favor that limitation on abortion, while 51% oppose it.

The survey was conducted Jan. 10-21, 2022, interviewing 1000 adults nationwide, with a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.

There has been little shift in opinion on overturning Roe since September, as shown in Table 1. Opinion on Dobbs, shown in Table 2, has remained closely divided, but has shifted slightly to being more opposed to the restrictions at issue in Dobbs since September. The percentages in the tables show results among those with an opinion of each case.

Table 1: Favor or oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, among those with an opinion, Jan. 2022

Poll dates Favor Oppose
9/7-16/21 28 72
11/1-10/21 30 70
1/10-21/22 28 72

Table 2: Favor or oppose upholding 15-week abortion ban in Dobbs, among those with an opinion, Jan. 2022

Poll dates Favor Oppose
9/7-16/21 54 46
11/1-10/21 53 47
1/10-21/22 49 51

As the abortion issues before the Court have received more attention since summer, the percentage of respondents with an opinion about Roe has increased. In September, 71% said they had an opinion on reversing Roe; the number rose to 77% in January. There was little change in the number holding an opinion on Dobbs, which was 73% in September and 74% in January.

A Texas law, Senate Bill 8 (SB-8), is favored by 28% and opposed by 72% of those with an opinion about the law. SB-8 bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, and authorizes individual citizens to sue those who aid others in getting an abortion. In this survey, 81% say they have an opinion about this law. In November, 30% of those with an opinion favored the law, while 70% opposed it. In November, 84% had an opinion on this issue.

Views of the abortion issue differ by partisanship, with Republicans the only partisan group in which a majority favors overruling Roe v. Wade, as shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Percent who favor or oppose overturning Roe, among those with an opinion, by party identification, Jan. 2022

Party ID Favor Oppose
Republican 55 45
Lean Republican 36 64
Independent 31 69
Lean Democrat 9 91
Democrat 13 87

Support for upholding the 15-week ban in Dobbs draws more support across all party groups, though with a sharp gradient from Republicans to Democrats, shown in Table 4.

Table 4: Percent who favor or oppose upholding 15-week abortion ban at issue in Dobbs, by party identification, Jan. 2022, among those with an opinion

Party ID Favor Oppose
Republican 81 19
Lean Republican 80 20
Independent 46 54
Lean Democrat 24 76
Democrat 26 74

Partisan support for the Texas SB-8 law falls between that for overturning Roe and that for upholding the restriction at issue in Dobbs, among those with an opinion of the law, as shown in Table 5.

Table 5: Percent who favor or oppose Texas SB-8 law, among those with an opinion, by party identification, Jan. 2022

Party ID Favor Oppose
Republican 61 39
Lean Republican 40 60
Independent 28 72
Lean Democrat 7 93
Democrat 11 89

Gun rights

On Nov. 3, the Court heard oral arguments in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen. This case considers whether a New York denial of an application for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violates the Second Amendment.

This survey asked if the respondent would favor or oppose a decision “that the Second Amendment right to ‘keep and bear arms’ protects the right to carry a gun outside the home.” Among those with an opinion, 67% say they favor such a ruling, while 33% are opposed. In September, 63% of those with an opinion favored such a ruling and 37% were opposed. In this January survey, 75% had an opinion on this issue, whereas 70% had an opinion in September.

Views on the right to possess a gun vary with partisanship, with overwhelming support among Republicans and only minority support among Democrats, as shown in Table 6.

Table 6: Percent who favor or oppose right to carry a gun, by party identification, among those with an opinion, Jan. 2022

Party ID Favor Oppose
Republican 94 6
Lean Republican 94 6
Independent 70 30
Lean Democrat 47 53
Democrat 36 64

Those with a gun in the household are much more supportive of a right to carry a gun outside the home, as shown in Table 7. Those without a gun in the household are about evenly split, while a large majority of gun householders support a right to carry. Gun owners are also more likely to have an opinion on the issue, 79%, than are those without guns in their home, 72%.

Table 7: Percent who favor or oppose right to carry a gun, by whether there is a gun in the household, among those with an opinion, Jan. 2022

Household status Favor Oppose
Gun household 84 16
Not gun household 54 46

Views of vaccine mandates

On Jan. 13, the Court stopped the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from enforcing a rule that would have mandated companies of more than 100 employees to require employees to either be vaccinated or be regularly tested for COVID19. The Court held the rule to be likely unlawful and stayed its enforcement pending further consideration of challenges to the mandate in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. At the same time, the Court ruled that the federal government could require vaccination of health care workers at facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.

Asked about these policies, 54% favor the OSHA requirement, with 45% opposed, while 61% favor requiring vaccinations for health care workers and 38% are opposed.

Approval of the Supreme Court

Approval of the U.S. Supreme Court remains evenly divided, with 52% approving and 46% disapproving. Approval declined from 60% in July to 49% in September and has changed little since then. The trend in approval of the Court since 2020 is shown in Table 8.

Table 8: Approval of the Supreme Court, Sept. 2020-Jan. 2022

Poll dates Approve Disapprove
9/8-15/20 66 33
7/16-26/21 60 39
9/7-16/21 49 50
11/1-10/21 54 46
1/10-21/22 52 46

Approval has fluctuated among Democrats after falling sharply in September, while there was little recent change among independents and Republicans. All partisan groups have lower approval now than in September 2020. Table 9 shows approval by party over five Marquette Law School Poll surveys since September 2020.

Table 9: Approval of the Supreme Court by party, Sept. 2020-Jan. 2022

Party ID Poll dates Approve Disapprove
Republican 9/8-15/20 80 19
Republican 7/16-26/21 57 42
Republican 9/7-16/21 61 38
Republican 11/1-10/21 61 39
Republican 1/10-21/22 60 37
Independent 9/8-15/20 64 34
Independent 7/16-26/21 61 37
Independent 9/7-16/21 51 48
Independent 11/1-10/21 53 47
Independent 1/10-21/22 52 46
Democrat 9/8-15/20 57 43
Democrat 7/16-26/21 59 40
Democrat 9/7-16/21 37 62
Democrat 11/1-10/21 49 50
Democrat 1/10-21/22 45 54

Perceptions of the basis of decisions

Views of the basis of decisions differ if the respondents are asked about what “motivates Supreme Court justices’ decisions” or if, instead, they are asked a question worded with a more institutional focus about whether “the Supreme Court is mainly motivated” by politics or by the law. In this survey, we asked a randomly selected half of the respondents one of this pair of questions at the beginning of the survey, before any other questions except how much attention the respondent pays to politics. This minimizes the extent to which the respondent has been primed to think about the Court. So half of this beginning-of-survey half got one question, and the other half of this early-survey half got the other question.

  • When asked about the justices’ motivation, 42% of this beginning-of-survey group say the justices are mainly motivated by politics and 58% say mostly by the law.
  • In contrast, when asked about the Court, 53% of this beginning-of-survey group say the Supreme Court is mainly motivated by politics and 47% say it is mainly motivated by the law.

Then, the other half (again, randomly selected) of the survey respondents were asked one (or the other) of these two questions much later in the survey, after questions about favorability of the justices, ideological placement of the Court, and items about specific cases concerning abortion and gun rights among others. When asked later in the survey, the perception of the motivations for decisions as being politics increases for the wording of both questions—the one speaking of the “justices” and the one focused on the “Court” as a single body.

  • When asked late in the survey, 55% say the justices are mainly motivated by politics and 45% say mostly by the law.
  • When asked late in the survey about the motivation of the Court as a whole, 60% say the Court is mainly motivated by politics and 40% say mostly by the law.

The implication of this finding is that views of the Court as a single institution provoke the perception of a more political body—and that perception is increased after respondents are required by many questions to think about the Court. In contrast, when the focus is on the justices, respondents are more likely to believe “the law” is the motivation of the justices, although this percentage declines (to a minority) after a numerous questions have required the respondent to think more about justices and cases before the Court, whereupon there is approximately an even split in impressions of motivations for decisions.

This reflects some difference in how citizens think about the motivations of individual justices and how they think of the Court as a whole. It also demonstrates that when people are prompted to think about the controversial cases before the Court, the percentage who see political motivations for both the justices and the institution increases.

Table 10 summarizes the results concerning the basis of decision.

Table 10: Basis of decision, by question focus and placement in survey, Jan. 2022

Placement Question focus Mainly politics Mainly the law
Beginning of survey Justices 42 58
Beginning of survey The Court 53 47
Late in survey Justices 55 45
Late in survey The Court 60 40

The structure of opinion about the justices

The public is not familiar with most justices. Only 21% are able to express an opinion of Justice Stephen Breyer. The highest percentage, 55%, give an opinion about Justice Clarence Thomas, while 38% offer an opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts.

The three most recent appointees to the Court, Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Barrett, have the lowest net favorable ratings, reflecting contentious confirmations and the polarized environment of contemporary Court appointments. Recognition and opinion of the justices are shown in Table 11.

Table 11: Recognition and favorability ratings of justices, Jan. 2022

Justice Able to rate Net favorability Favorable Unfavorable
Samuel Alito 26 6 16 10
Amy Barrett 46 -2 22 24
Stephen Breyer 21 7 14 7
Neil Gorsuch 29 1 15 14
Elena Kagan 28 8 18 10
Brett Kavanaugh 53 -11 21 32
John Roberts 38 12 25 13
Sonia Sotomayor 50 20 35 15
Clarence Thomas 55 5 30 25

The public structures its views of the justices in ways that are consistent with the respondent’s partisan and ideological views, the party of the appointing president, and the common ideological characterization of the justices.

With the sole exception of Chief Justice Roberts, net favorability aligns with the partisanship of the respondent and the party of the president who appointed the justice, as shown in Table 12. This pattern holds for the less well-known justices (Breyer, Alito, Kagan and Gorsuch) and for the more widely known justices (Sotomayor, Barrett, Thomas, and Kavanaugh). Only Roberts is viewed more favorably than unfavorably by each partisan group.

Table 12: Recognition and favorability ratings of justices, by party identification of the respondent, Jan. 2022

Justice Party ID Able to rate Net favorability Favorable Unfavorable
Samuel Alito Republican 28 20 24 4
Samuel Alito Independent 21 7 14 7
Samuel Alito Democrat 31 -11 10 21
Amy Barrett Republican 56 42 49 7
Amy Barrett Independent 39 -3 18 21
Amy Barrett Democrat 48 -38 5 43
Stephen Breyer Republican 20 -4 8 12
Stephen Breyer Independent 16 6 11 5
Stephen Breyer Democrat 27 19 23 4
Neil Gorsuch Republican 34 28 31 3
Neil Gorsuch Independent 23 -1 11 12
Neil Gorsuch Democrat 35 -19 8 27
Elena Kagan Republican 27 -11 8 19
Elena Kagan Independent 22 8 15 7
Elena Kagan Democrat 37 27 32 5
Brett Kavanaugh Republican 59 43 51 8
Brett Kavanaugh Independent 42 -12 15 27
Brett Kavanaugh Democrat 62 -52 5 57
John Roberts Republican 42 20 31 11
John Roberts Independent 33 9 21 12
John Roberts Democrat 40 10 25 15
Sonia Sotomayor Republican 49 -25 12 37
Sonia Sotomayor Independent 42 18 30 12
Sonia Sotomayor Democrat 61 57 59 2
Clarence Thomas Republican 61 43 52 9
Clarence Thomas Independent 48 8 28 20
Clarence Thomas Democrat 59 -29 15 44

Views of the justices also align with the respondent’s ideological self-placement, with conservative respondents consistently more favorable to justices usually considered conservative, while liberal respondents are more favorable to those considered liberal justices. These results are shown in Table 13. Roberts is again the exception, viewed rather favorably by the middle categories of ideology but less so among both very conservative and very liberal respondents.

Table 13: Recognition and favorability ratings of justices, by respondent ideological self-placement, Jan. 2022

Justice Ideology Able to rate Net favorability Favorable Unfavorable
Samuel Alito Very conservative 35 21 28 7
Samuel Alito Somewhat conservative 27 23 25 2
Samuel Alito Moderate 20 6 13 7
Samuel Alito Somewhat liberal 30 -16 7 23
Samuel Alito Very liberal 35 -7 14 21
Amy Barrett Very conservative 60 54 57 3
Amy Barrett Somewhat conservative 56 38 47 9
Amy Barrett Moderate 33 -5 14 19
Amy Barrett Somewhat liberal 55 -43 6 49
Amy Barrett Very liberal 58 -48 5 53
Stephen Breyer Very conservative 24 -12 6 18
Stephen Breyer Somewhat conservative 20 2 11 9
Stephen Breyer Moderate 17 7 12 5
Stephen Breyer Somewhat liberal 27 19 23 4
Stephen Breyer Very liberal 24 18 21 3
Neil Gorsuch Very conservative 40 38 39 1
Neil Gorsuch Somewhat conservative 28 20 24 4
Neil Gorsuch Moderate 22 0 11 11
Neil Gorsuch Somewhat liberal 36 -18 9 27
Neil Gorsuch Very liberal 41 -29 6 35
Elena Kagan Very conservative 31 -27 2 29
Elena Kagan Somewhat conservative 28 -6 11 17
Elena Kagan Moderate 23 9 16 7
Elena Kagan Somewhat liberal 34 30 32 2
Elena Kagan Very liberal 35 33 34 1
Brett Kavanaugh Very conservative 64 62 63 1
Brett Kavanaugh Somewhat conservative 55 35 45 10
Brett Kavanaugh Moderate 41 -17 12 29
Brett Kavanaugh Somewhat liberal 66 -54 6 60
Brett Kavanaugh Very liberal 65 -59 3 62
John Roberts Very conservative 54 6 30 24
John Roberts Somewhat conservative 40 18 29 11
John Roberts Moderate 30 14 22 8
John Roberts Somewhat liberal 39 15 27 12
John Roberts Very liberal 40 0 20 20
Sonia Sotomayor Very conservative 54 -48 3 51
Sonia Sotomayor Somewhat conservative 49 -23 13 36
Sonia Sotomayor Moderate 41 29 35 6
Sonia Sotomayor Somewhat liberal 62 54 58 4
Sonia Sotomayor Very liberal 59 57 58 1
Clarence Thomas Very conservative 64 50 57 7
Clarence Thomas Somewhat conservative 63 43 53 10
Clarence Thomas Moderate 48 4 26 22
Clarence Thomas Somewhat liberal 60 -28 16 44
Clarence Thomas Very liberal 51 -39 6 45

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The survey was conducted Jan. 10-21, 2022, interviewing 1000 adults nationwide, with a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points. Interviews were conducted using the SSRS Opinion Panel, a national probability sample with interviews conducted online. The detailed methodology statement, survey instrument, topline results, and crosstabs for this release are available at Some items from this survey are held for later release.

Wording of questions about possible future Supreme Court decisions: These items do not attempt to exactly frame the particular issues in specific cases but rather address the topic in more general terms.

Do you favor or oppose the following possible future Supreme Court decisions, or haven’t you heard enough about this to have an opinion? …

  • Overturn Roe versus Wade, thus strike down the 1973 decision that made abortion legal in all 50 states.
  • Rule that the 2nd Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” protects the right to carry a gun outside the home.

Rule to uphold a state law that (except in cases of medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities) bans abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

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