To sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE

The U.S. public expresses a clear consensus on the contentious question of whether employers who have religious objections to contraception should be required to provide it in health insurance plans for their employees, a new Pew Research Center survey finds. Fully two-thirds of American adults say such businesses should be required to cover birth control as part of their employees’ insurance plans, while just three-in-ten say businesses should be allowed to refuse to cover contraception for religious reasons.

The survey of more than 4,500 U.S. adults explores recent controversies that have pitted claims of religious liberty and traditional morality against civil rights and nondiscrimination policies. And it finds that Americans are more closely divided on two other hotly debated questions: whether businesses should be able to refuse service to same-sex couples, and whether transgender people should be required to use particular restrooms.

About half of U.S. adults (49%) say businesses that provide wedding services, such as catering or flowers, should be required to provide those services to same-sex couples as they would for any other couple. But a nearly equal share (48%) says businesses should be able to refuse services to same-sex couples if the business owner has religious objections to homosexuality.

And in the debate over bathroom use by transgender people, roughly half of Americans (51%) say transgender people should be allowed to use public restrooms of the gender with which they currently identify, while nearly as many (46%) say transgender individuals should be required to use restrooms of the gender they were born into.

Some of the survey’s other key findings include:

  • Religious differences: When it comes to views about employer-provided birth control, services for same-sex weddings and use of public restrooms by transgender people, there are large differences between some religious groups. Most white evangelical Protestants say businesses that provide wedding services should be allowed to turn away same-sex couples (77%) and a majority (69%) says transgender people should be required to use the public restroom of the gender they were born into. And roughly half of white evangelical Protestants (53%) say employers should be allowed to refuse to provide birth control in health insurance plans for their employees. Most religiously unaffiliated Americans (those who identify as atheists or agnostics or describe their religion as “nothing in particular”) and Jews take the opposite views on these three issues. Black Protestants and Catholics tend to be closely divided on these questions – with the exception of employer-provided contraception coverage. Majorities in each group believe employers should be required to provide contraception in health care plans for their employees.
  • Political differences: There also are sharp partisan divides on these questions. While more than eight-in-ten Americans who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party say employers should be required to provide contraception coverage in health insurance plans for employees, Republicans and those who lean toward the GOP are more evenly divided, with 51% saying employers who have religious objections to the use of birth control should be able to refuse to provide it. And while two-thirds of Democrats say businesses that provide wedding services should be required to serve same-sex couples and that transgender people should be allowed to use public restrooms that match their gender identity, majorities of Republicans take the opposite views on these issues.
  • Gender differences: Women are more likely than men to say employers should be required to cover birth control in the health care plans they offer employees (72% vs. 62%). Women also are more likely than men to say wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples despite religious objections (54% vs. 44%) and that transgender people should be able to use restrooms that match the gender with which they identify (55% vs. 45%).
  • Age differences: U.S. adults under age 30 differ from older Americans in their views regarding bathroom use by transgender people. Two-thirds of those ages 18 to 29 say transgender people should be allowed to use public restrooms that match their gender identity, while Americans over 30 are much more divided. Young adults also are more likely than their elders to say employers should be required to provide contraception coverage in health care plans and that businesses should be required to provide services to same-sex couples.

These are among the main findings of a new Pew Research Center survey of 4,538 adults conducted between Aug. 16 and Sept. 12, 2016. The survey was administered online and by mail among a nationally representative sample.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take policy positions. The Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. Subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters or follow us on ourFact Tank blog.