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Poll: Majority Of Voters Support Birth-Control Benefit Rule

The Obama administration's controversial decision to require religiously affiliated institutions like universities and medical centers to provide workers with health insurance that covers prescription birth control without a co-pay appears to have support from a majority of voters, according to a new poll by Public Policy Polling.

The poll, done on behalf of Planned Parenthood, also suggested that Mitt Romney, frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, could pay a price at the polls for taking the position that he would reverse the recent decision by the Health and Human Services Department.

Romney, like Catholic bishops, has argued that the decision is counter to First Amendment religious freedoms.

The PPP poll found that 56 percent of all those polled supported the administration's decision while 37 percent opposed it. The poll had a margin of error of 5-1/2 percent. Voters who described themselves as independents showed a similar split.

Even a majority of Catholics appeared to support the Obama administration decision though by a narrower margin, 53 percent to 45 percent.

One of the most interesting findings was the response of Catholics to the question of whether they would be more or less inclined to support the GOP presidential candidate in November because of his position on the issue.

Forty six percent of Catholics said they would be less likely to support Romney versus 28 percent who said they would be more likely and 23 percent said it would make no difference.

Among all voters, 40 percent it would make them less likely to support the former Massachusetts governor versus 23 percent who said more and 33 percent who said it wouldn't matter.

"It really has the potential to hurt him with some of these key groups that could go either way, independents, Catholics, this fall," said Tom Jensen, PPP's director. "It doesn't really square with the image Romney might want to project in the general election as sort of being a moderate on social issues. So he's sort of playing with fire here."

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.