Most Americans like contraceptive mandate for businesses — in one chart

November 26, 2013

The Supreme Court's decision Tuesday to consider whether employers objecting to contraception on religious grounds should be compelled to cover their employees' use of contraceptives anyhow has cast a renewed spotlight on an element of Obamacare that has received a great deal of attention the past couple of years.

Where do Americans stand on the mandate? Data show most have come down on the side of the Obama administration in favor of requiring contraceptive coverage, even as the issue has sparked intense feelings on both sides. That includes the specific question of whether secular private companies should be mandated to cover contraception, which is what is at issue in this case.

Fifty-three percent of Americans said privately owned small businesses should be required to provide their employees with health plans that cover contraception at no cost, according to a March 2012 Public Religion Research Institute survey. By comparison, 43 percent said such companies should not have to offer the coverage.

Chart courtesy of Public Religion Research Institute Web site.
(Public Religion Research Institute Web site)

After a backlash from religious groups and leaders, the Obama administration earlier this year opted to exempt certain religious organizations from the coverage requirement. But not corporations whose owners object on religious grounds. A pair of such companies are at the center of the cases the Supreme Court took up Tuesday.

When it came to publicly held corporations, Americans overwhelmingly supported the mandate by a 62 percent to 33 percent margin in the 2012 poll.

While Americans are less likely to support the mandate when it comes places of worship (which are exempted) compared to private companies, they have broadly favored the idea that insurance companies be mandated to cover the full cost of contraception for women. A March 2012 Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that about six in 10 (61 percent) of Americans agreed with the mandate, compared to 35 percent who opposed it.

Questions about the mandate are sure to surface in polls again in coming months given the Supreme Court's decisions to look at this matter closely. But based on the data we have seen, the public, for what it's worth, doesn't seem to think private companies should be exempted.

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Sean Sullivan | November 26, 2013