Results from the American Bar Association’s (ABA) 2020 Survey of Civic Literacy show that a wide majority of respondents—83 percent—believe the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) should be ratified and incorporated into the U.S. Constitution. Only 8 percent opposed.
Support was virtually equal between men (82 percent) and women (83 percent). Support was highest among younger individuals; 90 percent of 18- to 24-year olds were in favor of the ERA, while 80 percent of those between 50 and 64 years old were supportive and 83 percent of those older than 64 favored it.
“That’s a powerful statement about what the public believes in,” said ABA president Judy Perry Martinez, for it “tells us is that Americans believe in equal rights for women and they know that until those words are in our Constitution, those equal rights will not in fact be believed and achieved by all.”
According to the ABA, the purpose of their annual Survey of Civic Literacy is to measure “the public’s knowledge and opinions concerning government, history and the Constitution.” As effects of the pandemic continue to be felt across nation, the survey took note of socio-political trends to better gauge U.S. support for relevant topics like the potential for online voting, as well as thoughts on how the government should handle a national emergency.
That’s why this year the survey added a wide variety of topics—including the COVID-19 pandemic, the 19th Amendment and the Equal Rights Amendment.
The ABA’s interest in ERA public opinion comes with this year’s renewed push for to ratify the amendment—made possible when Virginia became the 38th and final state needed to enshrine the ERA in the U.S. Constitution.
This increase in public support will be crucial in maintaining traction for the ERA’s recognition, passage and fight to make it through inevitable legal and political battles—since the Trump administration and conservative state attorneys general are attempting to block recognition of the amendment.
Sen. Mitch McConnell has already indicated that he would block the joint resolution passed by the House—under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a bipartisan 232–183 vote—as he says he’s “personally not a supporter” of the ERA. This makes November’s election crucial.
American women are currently still deprived of Constitutionally protected “equality of rights under the law”—and as ABA’s survey has shown, voters are taking note of this absence.
As Constitutional law scholar and former dean of Stanford Law School Kathleen Sullivan told Ms.:
“We are the only major democracy in the world with a written Constitution that does not have an equal rights amendment to protect equality between men and women. That’s a national embarrassment.”
The 19th Amendment
In addition to the fight for the ERA, 2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women’s right to vote. Yet ABA found that just over half—57 percent—of respondents knew that the 19th Amendment guaranteed women that right.
Martinez says we must “make sure that across generations we are telling this story of the suffragists, that we are talking about their legacy, the lessons we learned from their struggles and also from their accomplishments and successes.”
On the topic of online voting, however, ABA found a huge positive shift in voter attitudes.
More than half (55 percent) of adults in the U.S. now support online voting. This is a significant increase from the 34 percent who said they supported online voting when asked before the pandemic had fully struck the U.S.
In a survey update conducted April 7-11, 2020, opposition to online voting dropped 23 percentage points to 40 percent from 63 percent, a change the pollster termed “earth-shattering.”