Poll number 2: Only 39 percent believe insurance plans should cover contraceptives

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Yesterday, we saw this survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, which found that a majority of respondents — particularly Catholic respondents — believe that employers in general should provide insurance that includes birth control coverage. 49 percent (and 52 percent of Catholics) said they believe that certain religious-affiliated institutions like colleges and hospitals should be required to provide contraceptive coverage, as the federal government says it will (sooner or later) require them to do.

Now, we have this poll, from Rasmussen Reports, whose findings are quite different. The Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely voters found that only 39 percent of respondents backed the federal requirement. Why the disparity?

Well, let's look at the wording of the questions. PRRI asked it this way:

There is currently a debate over what kinds of health care plans some religious organizations should be required to provide. Do you think [INSERT; RANDOMIZE] should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost, or not? What about [INSERT]?

Rasmussen, however, put it this way:

The requirement to provide contraceptives for women violates deeply held beliefs of some churches and religious organizations. If providing such coverage violates the beliefs of a church or religious organization, should the government still require them to provide coverage for contraceptives?

(Continued after the jump)

Let's get it out of the way that PRRI is often criticized by conservatives for being left-leaning, while Rasmussen is criticized by liberals for being right-leaning. Fine.

Now, there's the fact that the Rasmussen question takes pains to say that the requirement "violates deeply held beliefs" of churches and religious institutions, while PRRI glosses that over with "there is currently a debate ... ." They're both being manipulative — PRRI a little less so —but even that's irrelevant to why Rasmussen's question is deeply flawed.

In PRRI's question, there are two categories of "religious institutions." One is hospitals, colleges and other institutions that are not solely, or even mostly, dedicated to religious practice and serve the entire community, regardless of religion. The other category is places of worship.

Rasmussen, on the other hand, puts them all together. That's problematic because the actual debate here has nothing to do with places of worship or religious bureaucracies. Even in PRRI's poll, 57 percent of respondents said they didn't believe that churches/synagogues/etc. should be required to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees. Which is fine because those are already exempt from the requirement. Yet Rasmussen's question implies that they won't be, lumping all "religious organizations" into one bullshit highly questionable category.

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