In yet another WTF moment, Team Obama continues its plan to Win The Future by losing the debate on mandated contraceptive coverage.
The employer mandate, with a very limited religious exception, was announced in January. NY Times polling from early February suggested that Obama had picked a winning issue - per question 74 of the poll, "Do you support or oppose a recent federal requirement that private health isurance plans cover the full cost of birth control for their female patients", 66% of respondents supported the mandate. A follow up question, "And what about for religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital or university..." showed 61% in support.
Buat after a month of debate, and with a more nuanced question, the latest Times poll shows that support has faded (or that the original poll overstated the support):
73. Do you think health insurance plans for all employees should have to cover the full cost of birth control for their female employees, or should employers be allowed to opt out of covering that based on religious or moral objections?
"Cover" gets 40%; "Opt-out" has 51%. Ooops. And as Mickey Kaus notes, even among women a slight edge goes to "opt-out".
A follow-up specifically focuses on religiously affiliated institutions; "Cover" drops to 36% while "opt-out" rises to 57%.
It seems to be the case that specifically including the "opt-out" notion in the question is shading the result. As evidence, let's look at a recent Washington Post poll with a differently phrased question:
35. Do you think health insurance companies should or should not be required to cover the full cost of birth control for women? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
That phrasing is quite similar to the NY Times question of February, but where the Times had 66% support in February the WaPo is showing 61% support now (with 35% opposed). As an amateur poll reader, I recall that the decision to include alternatives in a question will shade the result, which seems to be happening with the Times results.
More importantly, the WaPo follows up on religiously-affiliated institutions, and they indicate more of a gap than the Times captured in February. Among 61% who support the employer mandate, 80% support it with no exception; 18% support a religious-affiliation exception.
So on net, 49% support the requirement that religiously affiliated institutions provide contraceptive coverage. That is down from the Times result of 61% in February (subject to reservations about the cross-comparison due to wording or sampling technique, which are above my pay grade.)
It's hard to read this as evidence that Obama is winning the debate. That said, the left is having succes with framing the issue - per the Times, 37% think the debate is about religious freedom and 51% think we are mooting women's rights. Even with that modest success, however, Team Obama is not seeing strong support for their view.
Apparently if the Team Obama pollsters phrase their questions favorably they can get the result targeted within the Pelosi/Reid/Obama bubble. But, as with the health care debacle, they may be surprised to learn that the public is not actually with them.
BITTERLY CLINGING TO THEIR TALKING POINTS: Obama never listened in church but made the mistake of thinking no one else did, either.