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Margie Omero Headshot

Yep, Birth Control Is Still Popular

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As I wrote about here and here, birth control coverage may be controversial in Washington, but it's not controversial with voters overall. Subsequent polling continues to show this to be true. While Politico incorrectly calls the polling "closely divided," any differences are due to question wording, and not actual controversy about birth control.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a survey showing nearly two-thirds (63%) support "the new federal requirement that private health insurance plans cover the cost of birth control." Recall these numbers are not that different from a NYT/CBS poll from a few weeks ago.

Similarly, Quinnipiac released a survey showing even stronger support (71%) for the following: "health insurance plans should cover birth control as preventative care for women." Even majorities of Republicans (50%) and white born again Christians (52%) support coverage for birth control. A more detailed question about Obama's "adjustment" to a rule about "religiously-affiliated employers" still garners majority support (54%).

So where does this talk of a mixed polling come from? Perhaps from this CNN poll showing just half (50%) disapprove of Obama's birth control policy. But note the question language doesn't actually say what the policy is: "As you may know, the Obama administration has announced a new policy concerning health insurance plans provided by employers, including religious organizations, and how they handle birth control and contraceptive services for women. Based on what you have read or heard, do you approve or disapprove of this policy?" While we may be following this issue's twists and turns closely in Washington, we shouldn't assume voters are, too. These results probably say as much about views toward Obama generally, or even health care reform, than they do about coverage of birth control specifically.

There is only one new poll that truly shows some division, although released after the "closely divided" Politico description. Today's MSNBC/WSJ survey shows a majority (53%) favor "offering free birth control coverage as part of health insurance plans." Yet more oppose (45%) than support (38%) full birth control coverage for employees at religiously-affiliated institutions. But the question wording here -- while not incorrect -- explains the Obama Administration's compromise using stronger terms like "the federal government requiring," and "mandate." The question seems to emphasize the government's actions more than the coverage it would create. Whatever the reason, this poll is the one real outlier. Other polls showing more opposition than support either don't explain the policy, or aren't asked of all voters.

Despite all this, there is one thing that's abundantly clear -- birth control use is not taboo. In the Quinnipiac poll, 82% say it's "not wrong" to use contraceptives, including 80% of Born Again Christians and 77% of Republicans. The CNN poll, despite showing half disapprove of "Obama's (unspecified) policy," also shows 81% disagree that "birth control is wrong." The Rush-led Republican position on this is far, far outside the mainstream.

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