CNN poll shows majority opposes HHS mandate, 50/44

posted at 8:40 am on February 17, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

CNN polled general-population adults over the weekend on the HHS mandate.  Both the sample type and the timing gave Barack Obama the advantage; general-population polls skew more liberal than polls among registered or likely voters, and the survey took place just after Obama announced his “accommodation” and the media spent all weekend reporting on his “compromise.”  Even with all of those advantages, the poll found a majority opposed to the HHS mandate, 50/44:

Half of all Americans say they oppose the Obama administration’s new policy concerning employer-provided health insurance plans and their coverage of contraceptive services for female employees including those at religiously affiliated institutions, according to a new national survey. …

According to the survey, 50% of the public disapproves of the Obama administration policy, with 44% saying they approve of the plan. The margin is right at the edge of the poll’s sampling error.

Surveys on this topic tell a mixed story because many Americans know little about the issue. Recent CBS and Fox polls indicate support for the new policy, using questions that describe the new policy in some detail. But in the CNN poll, when asked their opinion of the Obama policy with no details spelled out, support was much less and a large partisan divide emerged. A recent Pew poll also suggests Americans are closely divided, and that poll may hold the key to the differences. Nearly four in ten Americans say they have heard nothing at all about this controversy.

“The CNN poll illustrates the road ahead for the White House,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “If the administration can’t inform more Americans about the details of the policy – details that some other polls show to be popular – the public is likely to split along party lines. Many will dislike the plan simply due to the fact that this is an Obama initiative.”

Actually, when one looks at the internals of the poll, it’s pretty clear that opposition is broad but the support is partisan. The only support outside the MOE in the demographics for the mandate come from the usual suspects: Democrats (70/26), 18-34YOs (and only 50/39), liberals (70/24), moderates (49/43), the Northeast (53/41), non-white (60/32), urban (55/42), and Tea Party opposition (71/20).  These are all Democratic constituencies.  In contrast, the mandate is opposed by majorities in all other age demos, in those making $50K or more, majorities in the Midwest and South, a majority in the suburbs (52/41), a majority among those who have not attended college, a majority among Tea Party neutrals (51/43), and a narrow plurality of independents (47/44) which is within the MOE.  Plus, keep in mind that the general-population polling type usually skews responses favorably toward Democrats and liberals, so the impact of those majorities to the overall result will be outsized.

Also, it’s hardly clear that few people have heard of the controversy.  Only 6% of the respondents in this poll had no opinion on the issue.  Furthermore, the polling on contraception and the Catholic Church are widely divergent from the polling on the core question, which strongly suggests that the respondents in CNN’s poll know enough about it to understand that the question doesn’t really hinge on either.  Artificial contraception gets support from 81% in this poll, and 88% think Catholics should make up their own minds about birth control rather than accept church teachings — which is a little puzzling, because church membership is voluntary and accepting the teachings is in fact making up your own mind. Despite these overwhelming results in favor of contraception, the majority still opposes the mandate, which tells us that some other values are in play — probably religious liberty and freedom of choice, although CNN doesn’t bother to poll on the reasons for the opposition.

Charles Krauthammer hits those notes in today’s column:

First, the assault on the free exercise of religion. Only churches themselves are left alone. Beyond the churchyard gate, religious autonomy disappears. Every other religious institution must bow to the state because, by this administration’s regulatory definition, church schools, hospitals and charities are not “religious” and thus have no right to the free exercise of religion — no protection from being forced into doctrinal violations commanded by the state.

Second, the assault on free enterprise. To solve his own political problem, the president presumes to order a private company to enter into a contract for the provision of certain services — all of which must be without charge. And yet, this breathtaking arrogation of power is simply the logical extension of Washington’s takeover of the private system of medical care — a system Obama farcically pretends to be maintaining.

Under Obamacare, the state treats private insurers the way it does government-regulated monopolies and utilities. It determines everything of importance. Insurers, by definition, set premiums according to risk. Not anymore. The risk ratios (for age, gender, smoking, etc.) are decreed by Washington. This is nationalization in all but name. The insurer is turned into a middleman, subject to state control — and presidential whim.

Third, the assault on individual autonomy. Every citizen without insurance is ordered to buy it, again under penalty of law. This so-called individual mandate is now before the Supreme Court — because never before has the already hypertrophied Commerce Clause been used to compel a citizen to enter into a private contract with a private company by mere fact of his existence.

This constitutional trifecta — the state invading the autonomy of religious institutions, private companies and the individual citizen — should not surprise. It is what happens when the state takes over one-sixth of the economy.

We warned people that this would happen if ObamaCare passed — that the government would have dictatorial powers to strip us of our choices in health care and beyond.  As Krauthammer writes, this is just Presidential Decree #1.  More will come.


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