WASHINGTON -- Hoping to hold the line on President Barack Obama's controversial contraception ruling, which requires most religiously affiliated employers to cover the costs of their employees' birth control, Democrats are passing around private polling data from last August showing that a majority of the country -- including Catholics -- actually favors the policy.
A Democratic source on Thursday morning sent over previously unreleased data put together by pollster Celinda Lake for the Herndon Alliance, a non-partisan pro-health care reform coalition. The survey, conducted with more than 1,000 people, focuses on all aspects of the Affordable Care Act.
Its release was not authorized by the Herndon Alliance. For the Democratic party, however, the poll serves an important function. It contained a series of questions that are highly relevant to the debate over whether religious-oriented institutions should be required to offer contraception as part of their health care plans.
The poll asks respondents to react to the following argument, the language of which seems fairly evenly phrased by the standards of the current debate.
"Requiring health insurers to cover contraceptives violates the rights of people who belong to religions that don't believe in artificial contraception. The Catholic Church morally opposes birth control and Orthodox Jews and some Protestants find birth control objectionable. Forcing religious groups, individuals, health providers, and health plans to perform or pay for a service that they may find morally objectionable is wrong."
According to the results, 42 percent of respondents found this argument convincing, but 52 percent were not convinced. The majority of respondents, then, didn't believe religious objections trumped employers' responsibility to cover contraceptives.
Further down in the survey are equally revealing numbers. The poll asked respondents to react to the fact that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops "has sharply criticized the new rule requiring plans to cover contraception and birth control with no co-pays or deductible." Twenty percent said it made them view the Affordable Care Act less favorably, 18 percent said it made them view it more favorably, while a vast majority, 57 percent, said that it made no difference on their perception of the law at all. Those trend lines basically held when the respondents polled were only Catholics -- a full 53 percent said they weren't persuaded by the bishops.
Some of these results are driven by female respondents, who tend to be more supportive of contraception coverage requirements than men. But that hardly makes the data any less politically relevant. There is a perception that the administration's rule-making decision has opened it up to political disaster. The numbers don't necessarily reflect that.
Below is the full survey with the relevant data on pages 7 and 12.