CNN Poll: Half oppose Obama birth control insurance plan
February 16th, 2012
04:04 PM ET
2 years ago

CNN Poll: Half oppose Obama birth control insurance plan

Washington (CNN) – Half of all Americans say they oppose the Obama administration's new policy concerning employer-provided health insurance plans and their coverage of contraceptive services for female employees including those at religiously affiliated institutions, according to a new national survey.

The push by the White House has been sharply criticized by Catholic Church officials, and many political pundits have said that the controversy could hurt President Barack Obama's re-election chances with Catholic voters. But a CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday also indicates that the vast majority of Catholic Americans say they don't always follow church teachings on such issues as abortion and birth control, and few Americans Catholics believe artificial means of birth control are wrong.

See full results (pdf)

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According to the survey, 50% of the public disapproves of the Obama administration policy, with 44% saying they approve of the plan. The margin is right at the edge of the poll's sampling error.

Surveys on this topic tell a mixed story because many Americans know little about the issue. Recent CBS and Fox polls indicate support for the new policy, using questions that describe the new policy in some detail. But in the CNN poll, when asked their opinion of the Obama policy with no details spelled out, support was much less and a large partisan divide emerged. A recent Pew poll also suggests Americans are closely divided, and that poll may hold the key to the differences. Nearly four in ten Americans say they have heard nothing at all about this controversy.

"The CNN poll illustrates the road ahead for the White House," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "If the administration can't inform more Americans about the details of the policy - details that some other polls show to be popular - the public is likely to split along party lines. Many will dislike the plan simply due to the fact that this is an Obama initiative."

"It's a lot like President Obama's overall health care measure, which most Americans say they oppose even though they approve of many of the specific programs in the new law - opponents can use it against the president as long as they can keep the focus on who made the policy rather than what the policy actually does," adds Holland.

The President announced an accommodation Friday in the dispute. Under the new plan, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals will not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees. Insurers will be required, however, to offer complete coverage free of charge to women who work at such institutions. Female employees at churches themselves will have no guarantee of any contraception coverage – a continuation of current law.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced Obama's compromise last week soon after the president's announcement, saying the proposal raises "serious moral concerns," according to a statement posted on its website.

But the poll indicates that Americans, including American Catholics, are unconcerned about contraception and birth control. Roughly eight in ten disagree with the belief that using artificial means of birth control is wrong, and nearly nine in ten American Catholics say that they don't feel the need to obey Church teachings on moral issues like abortion and birth control.

"This is not a new phenomenon," says Holland. "Polls have found widespread support for artificial means of birth control since the 1980s, and since the 1990s, polls have found that American Catholics believe that they should make up their own minds on moral issues rather than always following Church teachings on those issues."

According to the survey, there's also a partisan divide on the issue, with seven out of ten Democrats supporting the new Obama administration policy, independent voters divided, and the vast majority of Republicans opposed. Both congressional Republicans and the GOP presidential candidates have been critical of the president and the White House on this issue.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from February 10-13, with 1,026 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

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soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. Mary from Maryland

    Something wrong with CNN's question set. Many of the peoploe I know are comfortable with the "negotiated" agreement announced by the President. Here is the problem I've learned performing surveys....so easy to sway one way or the other depending on the question(s) asked, the population surveyed/responding....

    February 16, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  2. Greg

    Americans must like history because the rest of the developed world is already in the 21st century when it comes to policies around birth control and abortion. But this is what happens when you mix religious stupidity with politics.

    February 16, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  3. Irene Clark

    Split alright, 70% against Obama's plan and 30% for it. All Christians need to take serious notice of how directly Obama attacks religion, the Jewish and Christian religions that is. We need to stand together and vote for anyone EXCEPT Obama. Two states in the news today because they have Muslim leaders speaking to the children. Wonder hos a Muslim school would like Billy Graham speaking to their students? The First Amendment protects all religions, but doesn't give a Closet Muslim the right to tramp on Christians.

    February 16, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. D

    "But in the CNN poll, when asked their opinion of the Obama policy with no details spelled out"
    yeah, that about says it all

    February 16, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  5. Melo-D

    98% of Catholic women use birth control. The only people worried about this are the church, the GOP and their minions. That's it. This is a total non-story.

    February 16, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  6. Brendiux

    @Cindy You're absolutely right! All the ones opposing birth control because 'they' are the ones that have to pay... Hello? For whatever reason people get free to low cost contraceptives (loss of job, cut downs, illness, and gosh idk so many other reasons) if one would get an unwanted pregnancy or a complicated pregnancy guess how much those costs would be compared to the costs of taking a pill.

    February 16, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  7. Mary

    50 percent of high school girls are on birth control for medical reasons such: ovarian sists helps prevent the loss ovaries mood swings depression irregular periods excessive weight gain fiberomyalgia decreases the chances of asteoporosis can start a girls periop to prevent amenorrnea stress eatind disorders and so much more the last thing on this very long list was the prevention of pregnanceys

    February 16, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  8. FLIndpendent

    @Irene – guess you're one of those that thinks our President is a Muslim trying to destroy the US, right? WOW – it is so sad what Faux news has done to so many – where is the intelligence in this country?

    February 16, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  9. robert

    A lot of these comments are missing the point. This issue is not about personal choice, it's not about Republican vs. Democrat, it's about a government policy that crosses the boundaries of separation of church and state. Simply put, whether you agree with it or not is irrelevant, if a religious organization's beliefs oppose birth control, but they're now being forced to provide contraception for their employees vis a vis insurance that they pay for because the government is demanding it, then we've done something fundamentally wrong. These employees rights aren't being trampled, they can still buy birth control on their own, but to ask their employers to do something that goes against their protected religious beliefs is simply wrong.

    February 16, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  10. bcinwi

    you should have to pass a test to have children......that would be the best birth control

    February 16, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  11. jim tom

    robert, I don't think you have heard about the newest compromise the administration has put forward.The INSURER is required to offer free contraceptive care to employees.

    February 16, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
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