Although social issues have been below the surface in the 2012 presidential race, they have periodically made it into the debate. Immigration provided controversy in several early debates, but until the February 2012 contraception/religious freedom controversy, the economy was dominant.
Social issues became a major topic when President Obama reversed the administration’s position on requiring religious organizations to provide contraception at no cost in their insurance plans after sustaining a full assault from religious and conservative leaders and media outlets.
Contraception is not a controversial topic for most Americans, but forcing religious health and insurance organizations to provide them against their values is controversial.
Pew’s poll, which does not test the issue in terms of religious freedom, found Americans in favor of the exemption 48 percent to 44 percent, with Catholics 55 percent in favor.
Like most issues in 2012, partisanship is framing this topic with more than a 40 percentage point difference between Republicans and Democrats on the issue.