Expect GOP Support for Trump ACA Contraception Rollback, Despite Widespread Support for Access

As anticipated, the Trump administration has used executive authority to reverse measures implemented as part of the Affordable Care Act that mandate coverage of contraception in most insurance plans.  

Per The Washington Post's story today:

This latest rewriting of the federal policy, in an interim final rule that takes effect immediately, broadens the entities that may claim religious objections to providing contraceptive coverage to nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies, even ones that are publicly traded. Also included are higher educational institutions that arrange for insurance for their students, as well as individuals whose employers are willing to provide health plans consistent with their beliefs.

A separate section covers moral objections, allowing exemptions under similar circumstances except for publicly traded companies.

Public attitudes captured in the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll illustrate how the focus on religious exemptions may work to qualify what is otherwise  universal support for women having access to contraception.

The magnitude and breadth of support for the idea that women should have access to contraception remains one of the most one-sided results in the decade of Texas polling we've compiled at the Texas Politics Project. Since there were no trade-offs or specification of costs in the item we asked, it is fair to speculate that introducing the notion of how women – or others – are expected to pay for contraception may well have impacted these results somewhat. Still, the acceptance that women should have a right to use contraception appears to be nearly universal. In our November 2015 poll, we asked Texans simply and directly, "Do you think that women who want to avoid becoming pregnant should have access to birth control?" Eighty-seven percent said yes, only five percent said no. Obviously, given the lopsidedness of these responses, there were no demographic, partisan, or ideological sub-groups that expressed significant opposition.

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Yes, should have access87%
No, should not have access5%
Don't know / No opinion7%

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Yes, should have access92%85%84%
No, should not have access5%3%7%
Don't know / No opinion3%12%9%

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Yes, should have access94%88%84%
No, should not have access4%4%7%
Don't know / No opinion2%8%9%

Nonetheless, expect lots of public support for the Trump administration's policy rollback from Republicans and conservatives as a result of the policy's focus on so-called conscience exemptions based on religious beliefs, and, to a lesser extent, the association of the contraception policy with the Affordable Care Act and its informal namesake, President Barack Obama.

In a set of questions in the November 2016 UT/Texas Tribune Poll that probed Texans' perceptions of which social groups experience discrimination, we found that among Republicans, Christians were the group likely to be viewed as facing, as the question put it, "the MOST discrimination in the United States today," and by a large margin, as the chart below illustrates.

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African Americans22%18%6%
Transgender people17%11%9%
Gays and lesbians16%7%7%

To the extent that one might argue that denying women coverage for contraception constitutes gender discrimination, Republican identifiers were divided on the question of permitting discrimination based on sincerely held religious beliefs. But while opinions among Republicans were divided, a majority who had an opinion agreed that "a sincerely held religious belief is a legitimate reason to exempt someone from laws designed to prevent discrimination."

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Don't know/no opinion19%

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Don't know/no opinion18%26%20%

Finally, of course, the backstop on any rejection of the Trump Administration's latest action is the partisan views of the Affordable Care Act. Given the distribution of partisanship in Texas, it's not surprising that our poll of registered voters found the Affordable Care Act still underwater in its approval ratings as recently as June of this year. Republicans and conservatives hold intensely negative views, providing another pool of strong attitudes that supporters of Trump's move can count on to dilute the impulse to support contraception among the President's base.

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Very favorable14%
Somewhat favorable25%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable9%
Somewhat unfavorable8%
Very unfavorable41%
Don't know/no opinion4%

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Very favorable30%5%1%
Somewhat favorable48%12%5%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable10%11%6%
Somewhat unfavorable5%5%12%
Very unfavorable3%60%73%
Don't know/no opinion4%7%2%