Most Catholic voters oppose the federal rule requiring religious institutions to buy insurance that covers contraception and sterilization, according to new research published Feb. 7.
Public Religion Research Institute's poll found that 52 percent of voting Catholics do not believe the contraception coverage mandate should apply to religiously-affiliated colleges and hospitals. Only 45 percent of Catholic voters said the rule should apply to these ministries.
This figure, indicating Catholic voters' disapproval with a prominent Obama administration policy, may add to growing speculation about their role in the 2012 election. A Pew Research Center analysis released Feb. 2 showed that Catholics had drifted from the Democratic Party since 2008.
The Public Religion Research Institute released its findings one day after the U.S. bishops published a fact sheet on Health and Human Services' recently-finalized mandate. The bishops said the rule makes schools, hospitals, and charities act "against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral."
Approved over objections from Catholic bishops and laypersons along with other religious groups, the rule applies to many types of faith-based institutions. Only those organizations that mainly hire and serve members of the same faith, for the purpose of promoting religious values, are exempt.
While politically active Catholics tended to disapprove of the mandate being applied to religious ministries that serve the public at large, their non-voting Catholic counterparts leaned toward a different view. With non-voters included, Catholic support for a mandate of this kind reached 52 percent.
Catholic voters, however, were joined in their opposition to the contraceptive mandate by many Evangelical Protestants. Only 31 percent of white Evangelicals said religious colleges and hospitals should be forced to buy insurance to give employees access to the drugs and methods without a co-pay.
Minority Catholics were more likely to believe the insurance mandate should apply to the Church's schools and hospitals, compared with their white co-religionists. Only 41 percent of white Catholics believe the contraception rule should apply to these institutions.
Among Americans of no religious affiliation, 59 percent thought the government should require religious colleges and hospitals to purchase insurance covering contraception. A slightly higher proportion of the non-religious, 61 percent, said employers in general should have to do so.
While 73 percent of Democrats said employers in general should be forced to make contraception available to employees without a co-pay, only 36 percent of Republicans agreed.
The Public Religion Research Institute describes itself as a "nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life."
Its CEO, Dr. Robert P. Jones, is known for his work with groups such as Progressive Christians Uniting, the People for the American Way Foundation, and Human Rights Campaign.