Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012
To: Democrat and Republican Leaders
From: Maureen Ferguson/Ashley McGuire
The Catholic Association
Re: Catholics and the HHS Mandate
Survey on the HHS Mandate
This Thursday, June 21, Catholics throughout the country will participate in a Fortnight for Freedom in support of the First Amendment, freedom of conscience, and religious liberty. In anticipation of this nationwide event, we thought a recent national survey commissioned by The Catholic Association would be of interest. There is a growing consensus that the Catholic vote could be a deciding factor in the upcoming presidential election. Some have even called the Catholic vote "The 2012 bellwether."
Where there is not consensus, however, is 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 our survey conducted by the Washington-based polling firm QEV Analytics indicates that the mandate is going to hurt more than help President Obama's level of support among Catholics and women.
The survey is the most comprehensive and statistically significant survey on the issue, based on a nationwide sample of 800 registered voters, with an additional 400 Catholic voters and 700 swing state voters polled.
TCA had our pollster drill down deep into the issue – starting with the Obama administration's stated policy goal, the method chosen to affect this goal, the potential ramifications of the mandate, and the effect this issue will likely have on the electorate.
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.
The Results are Clear: 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." 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.
These specific findings are graphically shown below.