America’s fight over reproductive rights has lasted for decades. The latest battle is about to begin. This month a law went into effect in Texas that bans most abortions in the state after about six weeks. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, the state’s last abortion clinic, is coming under renewed pressure to close. And this week the Supreme Court set a date to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of a law, passed by Mississippi’s legislature in 2018, that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. The court’s refusal to block the Texas law has intensified speculation that it may use the case, Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organisation, to in effect overturn Roe v Wade, the court’s ruling from 1973 that recognised a constitutional right to an abortion.

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But a poll conducted for The Economist by YouGov, an online polling firm, suggests that the court of public opinion has issued its own verdict. According to the survey, which was conducted between September 18th and 21st, only 28% of US adult citizens say they “would like to see Roe v Wade overturned”. Forty-eight per cent say they would prefer to “maintain abortion rights in all 50 states” while 24% are unsure. Respondents were roughly evenly divided on a separate question of whether they would like access to abortion made easier, made harder or to stay the same. This suggests that as many as two-thirds are in favour of Roe.

Polls have long found that public support for access to abortion outweighs opposition. This is in part due to the many circumstances in which a mother would be harmed, mentally or physically, from being forced to bear a child. More than two-thirds of respondents, for example, told YouGov that “it should be possible for a woman to legally obtain an abortion” if “the woman’s own health is seriously endangered by the pregnancy”. In cases of rape or incest, 65% and 61%, respectively, think the procedure should be allowed. Only 37% of the adults polled by YouGov said they were in favour of Texas’s anti-abortion law, which only permits abortion when the woman’s life is endangered by her pregnancy. Mississippi’s law was only slightly more popular.

The court hears oral arguments for the Dobbs case on December 1st. It will make its decision known later in 2022. Though their ultimate ruling is anyone’s guess, public opinion surveys reveal a clear and stalwart opposition to overturning precedent. Roe would stand if the people had their way.