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Survey | Majority of Americans Do Not Believe Religious Liberty is Under Attack

[03.15.2012]

March PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey

Read the news release here.
Read the RNS story here.
Read the Topline Questionnaire, including the survey methodology here.

Perceived Threats to Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State

Most (56%) Americans do not believe that the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America today. However, nearly 4-in-10 (39%) believe that religious liberty is threatened today.

  • Majorities of Tea Party members (72%) Republicans (60%), and seniors (56%) believe that religious liberty is being threatened.  White evangelical Protestants (61%) are the only major religious group that believes religious liberty is threatened in America today.
  • On the other hand, majorities of Democrats (69%), Independents (58%), and Millennials (73%) do not believe that religious liberty is being threatened today.  Majorities of Catholics, minority Protestants, white mainline Protestants and the unaffiliated also do not believe the religious liberty is being threatened in America today.
  • When Americans who believe that religious liberty is being threatened today were asked to explain in their own words how religious liberty is being threatened, only 6% mention the recent debate around the contraception coverage mandate. The most frequently mentioned reasons are the removal or God and religion from the public square (23%), government interference in religion (20%), and hostility toward Christians or religion (10%).

March RNS 2012 e1331743624408 Survey | Majority of Americans Do Not Believe Religious Liberty is Under AttackAmericans are divided over whether the principle of separation of church and state is being threatened in America today.

  • Self-identified liberals are more likely to believe that the principle of separation of church and state is being threatened today than to believe that religious liberty is being threatened (45% and 25% respectively).
  • A majority of conservatives believe that both the right of religious liberty and the principle of separation of church and state are being threatened (55% and 53% respectively).

Religious Liberty and the Contraception Mandate for Employers

With the single exception of churches or other places of worship, majorities of Americans believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception at no cost. However, there is more agreement about this requirement for some types of employers than others.

  • Roughly 6-in-10 Americans say that publicly held corporations (62%) and religiously affiliated hospitals (57%) should be required to provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception. A slim majority of Americans believe that religiously affiliated colleges (54%), privately owned small businesses (53%), and religiously affiliated social service agencies (52%) should be required to provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception.  Only 42% of Americans say churches and other places of worship should be required to provide this coverage to their employees.
  • Catholics overall are generally supportive of the contraception coverage requirements. Nearly two-thirds (65%) say that publicly held corporations should be held to this requirement.  Roughly 6-in-10 report that religiously affiliated social service agencies, colleges, hospitals, and privately owned small businesses should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception.  Less than half (47%) say churches and other places of worship should be required to provide this coverage.
    • White Catholics make few distinctions between churches and other religiously affiliated employers. Less than half of white Catholics believe that churches (43%), religiously affiliated colleges (43%), social service agencies (44%), and hospitals (48%) should be required to include contraception coverage in their insurance plans. However, a majority of white Catholics believe that non-religiously affiliated employers, including privately owned small businesses (55%) and public corporations (61%), should be required to provide employees with contraception coverage.
  • White evangelical Protestants are the only religious group that opposes requiring any type of employer to provide their employees with no cost contraception coverage. Majorities of white evangelicals believe that most types of employers should not be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception, including religiously affiliated colleges (56%), hospitals (55%), and social service agencies (59%), privately owned small businesses (56%), and churches and other places of worship (64%). Half (50%) believe that publicly held corporations should also not be required to provide employees with contraception coverage.
  • With the exception of publicly held corporations, less than half of Americans who attend religious services at least once a week believe that other types of employers should be required to provide employees with health care insurance that covers contraception.

Insurance Mandate e1331743980662 Survey | Majority of Americans Do Not Believe Religious Liberty is Under Attack

Religious Liberty and Adoption by Gay and Lesbian Couples

More than 6-in-10 (63%) Americans say that religiously affiliated agencies that receive federal funding should not be able to refuse to place children with qualified gay and lesbian couples. Roughly one-third (32%) of Americans say agencies that receive taxpayer money should be able to refuse.

  • Americans are divided over whether religiously affiliated agencies that receive no federal funding should also be able to refuse placing children with qualified gay and lesbian couples. Half say they should not be able to refuse, and 44% say they should.

Religious Liberty and Same-Sex Marriage

A slim majority (52%) of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, and 44% oppose.

  • Among religious groups, majorities of Catholics (59%), white mainline Protestants (56%), and the unaffiliated (77%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.  Minority Protestants are divided, with 43% in favor and 50% opposed.  In contrast, among white evangelical Protestants, 77% oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to only 21% who favor.
  • The survey also found religious liberty concerns were active among a subset of those who oppose same-sex marriage. When Americans who initially oppose same-sex marriage are asked whether they would support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry if the law guaranteed that no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay and lesbian couples, support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry increases 6 points, from 52% to 58%.

Read the news release here.
Read the RNS story here.
Read the Topline Questionnaire, including the survey 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 March 7, 2012 and March 11, 2012 by professional interviewers under the direction of Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS). Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,007 adults 18 years of age or older in the continental United States (300 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. In addition to sampling error, surveys may also be subject to error or bias due to question wording, context and order effects.

Homepage Photo: Photos courtesy of Constitutional Convention via Wikimedia Commons.