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News Release | Majority of Catholics Think Employers Should Be Required to Provide Health Care Plans that Cover Birth Control at No Cost

[02.07.2012]

Catholics more divided on whether birth control requirement should apply to religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals

 Washington, DC— Amid the controversy over the Obama Administration’s mandate that employers provide health insurance covering contraception and birth control at no cost to employees, a new national survey finds that nearly six-in-ten (58%) Catholic Americans generally support this requirement. A majority (55%) of all Americans also support the requirement.

The new PRRI Religion and Politics Tracking Poll, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, finds that a slim majority (52%) of Catholics also believe that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should have to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost. Among Catholic voters, however, only 45% support this requirement, while 52% oppose it.

“Catholics, like other Americans, generally support requiring employers to provide health care plans that cover birth control at no cost, and they make clear distinctions between two kinds of religious exemptions that have been at the heart of the controversy,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, PRRI CEO. “While 6-in-10 Catholics agree that churches and other places of worship who mainly employ people of their own faith should be exempt, Catholics are more divided about whether the exemption should apply more broadly to religiously-affiliated colleges and hospitals.”

This survey comes on the heels of last week’s PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Religion News Service, which found Obama beating both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich among Catholics in head to head match ups.

“Given how closely divided Catholic voters are over the requirement that religiously affiliated hospitals and colleges provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception, it seems unlikely that this issue will galvanize Catholics nationally and seriously undermine Obama’s electoral prospects with this important religious constituency,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director.

Among the Findings:

There are major religious, generational and political divisions regarding whether an employer should be required to provided health care plans that cover contraception at no cost to the employee:

  • Roughly 6-in-10 Catholics (58%) believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception.
    • Among Catholic voters, support for this requirement is slightly lower at 52%.
    • Only half (50%) of white Catholics support this requirement, compared to 47% who oppose it.
  • Among other religious Americans, 61% of religiously unaffiliated Americans believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception, compared to only half (50%) of white mainline Protestants and less than 4-in-10 (38%) white evangelical Protestants.

Nearly half (49%) of Americans say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost. Forty-six percent say they should not have to provide this type of coverage.

  • A majority of all Catholics (52%) say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide coverage that includes contraception.
    • Among Catholic voters, however, only 45% support this requirement, while 52% oppose it.
    • Only about 4-in-10 (41%) white Catholics support this requirement, compared to 58% who oppose it.
  • Among other religious Americans, 59% of the unaffiliated say that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide coverage that includes contraception, compared to less than one-third (31%) of white evangelical Protestants. White mainline Protestants are about evenly divided (45% say that hospitals and colleges should be required to provide coverage, 48% say they should not).

There is stronger support for exemptions for churches and other places of worship. Nearly 6-in-10 (57%) of Americans say that churches should NOT be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost. Less than 4-in-10 (36%) say that they should be required to do so.

  • Like other religious groups, a strong majority of all Catholics (59%), Catholic voters (68%), and white Catholics (72%) say that churches and other places of worship should not be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception.
  • Strong majorities of white evangelicals (73%), white mainline Protestants (64%) and Catholics (59%) believe that churches and other places of worship should not be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception.

Most Americans (55%) disagree that birth control should be generally available to teenagers age 14 and older without parental approval. Roughly 4-in-10 (41%) agree. There are also major generational and religious differences on this question.

Read the topline questionnaire and methodology here.

The survey was designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between February 1, 2012 and February 5, 2012 by professional interviewers under the direction of Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS). Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,009 adults 18 years of age or older in the continental United States (304 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The sample included 219 Catholics. The margin of error for this sample is +/- 6.5 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.

Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.
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