- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2012

Americans are divided on the Obama administration’s decision to require private employers to provide free birth control with health-insurance plans, and a majority wants the “Obamacare” law to be repealed, according to a poll released Thursday.

The Quinnipiac University nationwide survey found that 48 percent oppose the administration’s rule on contraceptives, while 47 percent favor it. The poll showed that 72 percent of Republicans oppose the mandate, and 69 percent of Democrats support it.

The administration created a firestorm Jan. 20 when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that religious-affiliated institutions including universities and hospitals would not be exempt under the new federal health care law to provide coverage of contraception.

Catholic bishops and leaders in other faiths protested the decision, leading Mr. Obama on Feb. 10 to announce that he would revise the policy to exempt religiously affiliated employers such as hospitals and universities from directly financing plans that provide free contraception to employees. But the president said insurance companies still would have to provide the coverage.

The monthly Purple Poll, a survey of 12 battleground states, found that 49 percent disapproved and 37 percent approved of “the way that President Obama handled the issue of insurance coverage for contraceptives.” The poll, conducted by Purple Strategies of Alexandria from Feb. 18-21, found that 50 percent of independents opposed Mr. Obama’s handling of the issue, and 23 percent of Democrats also disapproved of it.

The president fared slightly better with Catholics in the Purple Poll; 39 percent approved of the way he handled the subject and 48 disapproved. The survey is conducted in a dozen states that are likely to decide whether Mr. Obama is re-elected: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Purple Strategies pollsters Doug Usher and Bruce Haynes said the response to the issue in various polls appears to depend in part on how the question is framed. For example, a New York Times/CBS News poll this month found that 66 percent of voters support a federal requirement that health insurance companies pay for the full cost of birth control for women, but a CNN poll showed that 50 percent disapproved of Mr. Obama’s new policy.

The Qunnipiac poll found that 54 percent of respondents favor the modified plan, which the polling question described as an “adjustment” in the policy. Pollsters told people taking the survey, “Women will still be guaranteed coverage for birth control without any out-of-pocket cost, but will have to seek the coverage directly from their insurance companies if their employers object to birth control on religious grounds. Do you approve or disapprove of President Obama’s decision?”

Thirty-eight percent disapproved, but the results showed a partisan divide. Among Republicans, 63 percent opposed the compromise; 75 percent of Democrats favored it. Independents supported the president’s Feb. 10 announcement by a margin of 56 percent to 42 percent.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the overall health care law, and 50 percent of people in the poll said the high court should overturn the law; 39 percent disagreed. The respondents also favored Congress repealing the law, by a margin of 52 percent to 39 percent.

The survey showed a whopping turnaround in attitudes about the economy, with 54 percent of voters now saying the economy has begun to recover. That’s a 51-point shift in opinion since last Sept. 1, when 68 percent said the economy was not in a recovery, said Quinnipiac Assistant Director Peter A. Brown.

But the poll also found that Mr. Obama isn’t necessarily benefiting from the changing opinions about the economic recovery. He received a job-approval rating of 45 percent, and 50 percent of voters said the president doesn’t deserve to be re-elected. Last November, the same poll found 48 percent saying Mr. Obama should not get a second term.

Quinnipiac surveyed 2,605 registered voters Feb. 14-20, with a margin of error of +/- 1.9 percentage points.

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