Most voters approve of a federal mandate that health insurance plans coverage birth control, according to a new poll whose findings contrast with the firestorm of outrage the contraception mandate has provoked.

President Barack Obama presented a modified plan that allows religious institutions to opt out of the requirement, responding to a backlash from Catholic leaders who said the birth control requirement infringed on religious freedom. Republican presidential candidates have lashed out at the president over the mandate, with Newt Gingrich likening it to wag[ing] war on Catholicism and Rick Santorum warning of government control over your lives.

Voters surveyed in the New York Times/CBS poll sided with Obama. The poll said 65 percent of voters backed requiring health care plans to include birth control and 59 percent said the mandate should extend to religiously affiliated institutions. That broad support mirrors a study finding that 98 percent of Catholic women had used birth control.

A plurality of respondents also favored gay couples being allowed to marry, with slightly less than a third of respondents opposing any form of legal recognition for same sex marriage. Gay rights advocates cite such public approval when calling on Obama to take a more aggressive role in pushing for same sex marriage.

The poll also reflected conventional wisdom that the economy is the overriding concern for voters going into the 2012 election. A tiny minority said social issues like religion and abortion were most important to them, whereas voters who cited the economy or jobs made up nearly half of respondents.

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