Birth Control Mandate Supported by Most Catholics, Evangelicals, Says New Poll

A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) claims that a majority of Americans, as well as a majority of Catholics and Evangelical Christians, supports the contraception coverage requirement in President Barack Obama's healthcare bill.

The poll, which surveyed a random sample of 1,519 people by phone from Feb. 13-19, attempted to gauge public opinion of various healthcare issues and how they might affect voter behavior in the 2012 election.

When respondents were asked, "In general, do you support or oppose the new federal requirement that private health insurance plans cover the cost of birth control?" 63 percent of respondents said that they supported the policy, while 33 percent said they were opposed.

The debate began when the Department of Health and Human Services announced that insurance plans must cover birth control, angering many Catholic and Evangelical Christian groups who oppose contraception. Although the plan was later altered to allow exemptions for some faith-based employers, those who oppose the policy still say it violates the religious freedom of those not covered by the exemptions.

According to the report, more than 75 percent of respondents and more than 90 percent of observant Catholics had heard at least "a little" about the debate.

The KFF also provided a demographic breakdown of who supported and opposed the mandate, finding that whether or not someone supported the policy depended much more on party affiliation than age, gender, or religion.

Respondents who self-identified as Catholics supported the bill 60 percent of the time, while self-identified Evangelical Christians supported the bill 57 percent of the time.

The only demographic groups that supported the policy less than 50 percent of the time were Republicans of both genders, who supported the policy 42 percent of the time.

The survey also tried to determine what Catholics saw as the key issues in the debate over the birth control mandate, but the respondents appeared evenly split. Twenty-five percent of respondents thought the debate was primarily an issue of religious freedom, while 26 percent said it was an issue of women's rights. Another 27 percent believed it was about "both."

What most respondents saw as the driving force behind the debate, however, was the 2012 election.

When asked whether or not they thought the upcoming election caused the contraception debate, 50 percent of respondents said it was election-year politicking, while just 24 percent of respondents thought it would be a big debate in any year.

The KFF, which published the survey, describes itself as a "non-partisan source of facts and analysis for policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the general public."

Much of the KFF's research centers around the costs of healthcare, particularly on issues such as Medicare/Medicaid, healthcare reform, and the uninsured. It has produced several studies over the last few years in support of President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

When the KFF was founded, it was associated with major healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente, but the association between the foundation and the company had been dissolved by 1985.