New Poll: HHS Mandate Hurts Obama With Women, Catholics

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 19, 2012   |   4:12PM   |   Washington, DC

On the last day for pro-life advocates to officially make their case to the Obama administration to rescind its proposed mandate requiring religious groups to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs, a new poll shows strong opposition.

The Catholic Association commissioned the Washington-based polling firm QEV Analytics to survey Americans to determine whether the Obama administration’s approach with the HHS mandate, requiring employee healthcare coverage of contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs, is helping his electoral chances, especially with Catholics and women.

To the contrary, the results from the survey show the mandate is going to hurt more than help President Obama’s level of support among Catholics and women. The results are based on a nationwide sample of 800 registered voters, with an additional 400 Catholic voters and 700 swing state voters polled.

As the organization noted about the survey results:

Free Birth Control and the Federal Government: When asked whether providing free birth control is worthy of federal concern, 57 percent of Catholics said no versus 37 percent who said yes. Forty-four percent of women said no, versus 51 percent who said yes. Broken out by age, however, 50 percent of women 45 and older do not think free birth control should be a federal concern, whereas, 40 percent of women under 45 answered similarly. Overall, the majority of voters oppose the notion that free birth control should be a federal priority, including a large majority of Catholics and a more evenly divided female block than the media would have one think.

When asked whether birth control should be treated like any other drug in healthcare plans, however, the numbers grow more lopsided. Overwhelming majorities of Catholics and women, 67 and 63 percent respectively, think birth control should be treated like any other drug, without mandatory coverage. Even among women under 45, 62 percent think birth control does not merit mandatory coverage.

Religious Freedom: When asked as whether the federal government has the right to force morally objectionable coverage on religious institutions, 57 percent of voters said no. Those numbers remained high for women, with 54 percent of women under 45, and 58 percent of women 45 and older, disagreeing. This finding is nearly identical to that in a recent New York Times survey, which found a 57-36 margin favored allowing religious institutions to opt out of coverage.

Regarding the possibility that religious service providers may close down due to fines for refusing to comply with the mandate on conscience grounds, 65 percent of Catholics and 57 percent of women said they would question the wisdom of the mandate. Interestingly, those numbers were even higher for women under 45, with 63 percent responding that such closures would cause them to question the mandate.

When asked whether it is fair to suggest that Obama is creating divisions and conflicts in America, women were evenly split 48 to 48 percent, and Catholics agreed by 58 percent as compared with 41 percent who disagreed.

Also interesting was the strong and consistent support for the bishops’ response, with large majorities of self-described Catholics, Active Catholics (those polled who regularly attend Mass), and non-Catholics agreeing it was appropriate for the bishops to address the issue. Half of all Active Catholics actually heard a letter from their bishop opposing the mandate read to them at Mass.



Impact on Voters: But perhaps the data was most revealing regarding the impact of the HHS mandate on voters’ intentions. Twenty-nine percent of Catholics said they were less likely to vote to re-elect President Obama because of the HHS mandate, as compared to 13 percent who were more likely, at a greater than 2-1 margin. Religiously active white females were a stunning 38 percent less likely, with 12 only percent more likely, at a greater than 3-1 ratio. And the other key electoral demographic group — independents — were 28 percent less likely, with 15 percent more likely, a 13-point gap.

Commenting on the results, Maureen Ferguson of the Catholic Association said, “The mandate is a losing issue with key constituencies — Catholics, Independents, and women. Each group is significantly less likely to vote to re-elect President Obama as a result of the mandate, despite the administration’s effort to portray opposition to the mandate as a part of a “war on women.””

She added: “The majority of Catholics and women do not think that free birth control coverage justifies violating the conscience rights of objecting religious employers, with very high numbers questioning whether the goal of providing free birth control is worthwhile in the first place. Instead, the issue has cost President Obama voters and has led majorities to consider him a divisive president.”

Several other polls have shown the HHS mandate is not going over well with voters.

A May poll conducted by Marist College and released by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, shows a majority of Americans oppose the controversial Obama HHS mandate that forces religious groups to pay for drugs that may cause abortions.

March 2012 polling released by New York Times/CBS found Americans strongly oppose the new HHS mandate and favor a broad exemption for religious groups and employers who do not want to pay for birth control drugs or drugs that may cause abortions.

The survey revealed that, by a 50-41 percentage point margin, Americans say all employers should not have to cover birth control or potentially abortion-causing drugs while a larger 57-36 percentage point margin say religious employers should not be forced to provide coverage.

When asked “Should health insurance plans for all employees have to cover the full cost of birth control for female employees or should employers be able to opt out for moral or religious reasons?” even women favor the opt-out on a 46-44 percent plurality. That margin for women increased to a 53-38 margin for “religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital or university.”

Men favored opting out by a 20 point margin (57 vs. 37), and that percentage jumped to a 25-point spread for an opt out when religious employers were mentioned.

A February Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found 38 percent of likely voters think health insurance companies should be required by law to cover the morning after pill without co-payments or other charges to the patient. But 50 percent of Americans disagreed and opposed this requirement while 13 percent are undecided.

“That’s less support than the 43% who believe health insurers should be required to provide free contraception in general,” pollster Scott Rasmussen noted. “Only 39% are opposed to the policy of providing free contraceptive services, 11 points lower than opposition to mandated coverage of the morning after pill.”

Looking deeper into the results of the new survey, Ramussen reports that female voters are only slightly more supportive than male voters of requiring health insurance companies to provide emergency contraception for free. Sixty-five percent (65%) of Democrats say health insurers should be required to provide the morning after pill for free. Seventy-two percent (72%) of Republicans and 54% of voters not affiliated with either party oppose such a policy.

Just 11% think requiring health insurance companies to cover the cost of the morning after pill will reduce the cost of health insurance. Forty-nine percent (49%) say the mandate will increase the cost of health insurance, while 31% believe it will have no impact.

That survey followed a previous Rasmussen poll asking, “The requirement to provide contraceptives for women violates deeply held beliefs of some churches and religious organizations. If providing such coverage violates the beliefs of a church or religious organization, should the government still require them to provide coverage for contraceptives?”

Some 50 percent of those polled said no while 39 percent of Americans agreed.