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Most Americans under 30 don’t know Roe was about abortion

Next week marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. As my colleague Michelle Boorstein reports, most young Americans cannot say what the landmark ruling was about. 

The new data comes from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which looked at Americans' awareness of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Overall, 62 percent of Americans knew that the ruling dealt with abortion in some way.

There was a marked drop off among younger Americans, those born after the 1973 court decision. Pew found that 44 percent of Americans under 30 knew that the decision dealt with abortion. Forty-one percent thought it might have to do with the death penalty, the environment or could not name the subject matter.

There were some other, interesting splits in awareness when Pew broke up its polling data up in different ways. Republicans were significantly more likely to know the content of the Roe decision than Democrats - 68 versus 57 percent, respectively. Higher levels of education were also associated with more awareness.

Across gender, awareness of the Roe ruling was stable: 62 percent could name the subject matter of the decision.

One other notable finding: the discrepancy between abortion rights supporters and opponents on the importance of the issue. A full 74 percent of those who support overturning Roe consider abortion a "crucial issue" or "one of many crucial issues." Among supporters of the Roe decision, that number stood at 31 percent.

This is similar to previous research, conducted by NARAL Pro-Choice America, which found that young Americans who oppose abortion rights tend to be more passionate on the issue than abortion rights supporters.

Related reading: As Roe turns 40, a look inside one of the country's oldest abortion clinics



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Neil Irwin · January 16, 2013

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