Public Divided Over Birth Control Insurance Mandate
Religious, Partisan and Gender Differences
About six-in-ten Americans (62%) have heard about the proposed federal rule that would require employers, including most religiously affiliated institutions, to cover birth control as part of their health care benefits. Among those aware of the issue, opinion is closely divided over whether these institutions should be given an exemption to the rule if they object to the use of contraceptives: 48% support an exemption and 44% say they should be required to cover contraceptives like other employers.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted Feb. 8-12 among 1,501 adults, finds sharp divisions on the issue by religious affiliation, party and ideology.
The Obama administration announced Feb. 10 that it would modify the mandate in response to criticism that the rule would force religious organizations to violate their religious beliefs in providing contraception coverage. The survey shows little difference in opinions among people interviewed before the administration’s proposed modification on Feb. 10 and those interviewed afterwards.
Among Catholics who have heard at least a little about the issue, 55% favor giving religious institutions that object to the use of contraceptives an exemption from the federal rule, while 39% oppose exempting those institutions. White evangelical Protestants, by an even larger margin (68% to 22%), favor giving religious institutions an exemption. White mainline Protestants are divided (44% favor an exemption, 46% are opposed). By contrast, a majority (55%) of the religiously unaffiliated who have heard about the issue say religious institutions that object to the use of contraceptives should be required to cover them like other institutions, while 39% favor giving an exemption to these institutions.
There also are wide partisan and ideological divisions in opinions about the issue. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Republicans, and 82% of Republican and Republican-leaning independents who agree with the Tea Party, favor giving religious institutions that object to contraceptives an exemption from the new federal rule. By about two-to-one (64% to 29%), Democrats say religious institutions should be required to cover contraceptives like other employers; liberal Democrats (72%) are more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats (58%) to favor this approach.
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