2008 record      


Americans are churchgoers, and religion has always played a large role in U.S. politics. Health reform is no different. A new IBD/TIPP Poll shows that, depending on their faith, Americans have differing opinions and differing intensity of opinion when it comes to including a public option in any overhaul plan.

Protestants, for example, oppose a public option by a 43% to 33% margin, but Catholics favor it 42% to 35%. The biggest support for a public option comes from those who identify themselves as "another type of Christian," with 49% in support and 30% opposed. A majority (54%) of non-Christians support the public option and 29% oppose.

It's also important to note that, generally speaking, one in five of those surveyed are undecided.

Overall, 26% of survey respondents identified themselves as Protestants, 23% as Catholics, 26% as another type of Christian and 22% as non-Christians or nonreligious.

The intensity of support for the public option also varies. Sixteen percent of Protestants "strongly support" the concept, while 35% "strongly oppose" it. Twenty-one percent of Catholics "strongly support" and 26% "strongly oppose."

Among those identifying themselves as "another type of Christian," the intensity tilts toward a public option: 36% "strongly support" and 25% "strongly oppose." Forty percent of non-Christians "strongly support" while only 20% "strongly oppose."

Departing from the traditional Democratic position of separation of church and state, President Obama spoke last week to a coalition of religious leaders from more than 30 faith-based groups on a conference call to promote his health care reform. Some 140,000 people participated.

Still in play is the issue of tax dollars to pay for abortions or a government mandate for insurance companies to cover the cost of abortions.

If included in the health bill, Catholic health care facilities and the people who work there could be affected. The U.S. has more than 600 Catholic hospitals.

The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, bars the federal government from using tax dollars to fund abortions through Medicaid. Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the pro-life committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently sent lawmakers a letter urging them to make the legislation "abortion neutral".

Rigali also said the much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an "abortion rights" agenda or reversing longstanding policies against federal funding and mandated coverage of abortion.

Legislation to allow Medicare to pay for end-of-life counseling and creation of a panel of experts to evaluate efficacy of medical procedures has also triggered debate. Critics claim such an approach would lead to rationing of care and assisted euthanasia.

Section 1233 of the pending House bill titled "Advanced Care Planning Consultation" talks about a counseling session for seniors every five years to discuss end-of-life care. Some do not see the sessions as purely voluntary and have questioned its scope.

The perception of the president's handling of the health policy as well as his job approval also varies by religion.

Protestants give Obama's handling of the health care policy a D+ grade. Catholics and other Christians give him a C-. Non-Christians give him a better grade of C+.

In the IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index, Obama scores a pessimistic 46.8 from Protestants. But Catholics give him a positive 58.0, other Christians 57.7 and non-Christians 72.7.

Mayur is president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which directs the IBD/TIPP Poll that was the most accurate in the last two presidential elections.

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