On other issues that have come before the Supreme Court -- namely, affirmative action and abortion -- Americans' opinions have remained relatively stable for years, according to the poll, conducted June 12 - 16.
Most Americans support some legal recognition of a same-sex couple's relationship. The poll found 33 percent favor marriage for same-sex couples, down somewhat from a high of 42 percent in April, and another 30 percent support civil unions. A third of Americans think there should be no legal recognition of a same-sex couple's relationship. Views in this poll are similar to those found back in March of this year.
On the issue of affirmative action, views have remained similar for more than a decade. Fifty percent of Americans favor affirmative action programs, while four in 10 are opposed to them. In 2008, 51 percent favored affirmative action, while that number rested at 59 percent in 2000 and 55 percent in 1997.
There is broader support -- from 80 percent of Americans -- for programs that make special efforts to help people get ahead who come from low-income backgrounds, regardless of gender or ethnicity.
Views on abortion also continue to hold steady. The poll found 36 percent of Americans think abortion should be generally available, while slightly more –- 41 percent -- say it should be available but under stricter limits. One in five thinks it should not be permitted.
When Americans are asked specifically about the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which established a Constitutional right for a woman to obtain a legal abortion, 62 percent say that decision was a good thing, while 32 percent say it was a bad thing. Opinions on this have been consistent over the years.
In addition, most Americans, 64 percent, do not think Roe v. Wade should be overturned.
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As could be expected, views on Roe v. Wade are strongly tied to political party, ideology and religion. Democrats (74 percent), liberals (85 percent) and moderates (68 percent) think the Supreme Court's decision was a good thing. Republicans (51 percent), conservatives (53 percent) and white evangelicals (66 percent) say it was a bad thing. Majorities of both men (65 percent) and women (59 percent) think the Roe v. Wade decision was a good thing.
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 895 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone June 12-16, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Poll.
CBSNews.com editor-in-chief Dan Farber speaks with Sarah Dutton, the director of surveys for CBS News, about the latest New York Times/CBS News poll on Pres. Obama and Sonia Sotomayor: