Change: Americans oppose Biden's new federal vaccine mandate, 48/51, but...

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

The first two polls on this issue, from Morning Consult and Axios, had support for the new federal mandate for companies with 100 or more employees in the 58-60 percent range. Not bad for an unprecedented federal power grab.

Quinnipiac sees it differently. And Quinnipiac’s results are typically Democrat-friendly, making the poor polling here notable. Is this one an outlier or a harbinger of public opinion beginning to shift towards the anti-mandate position?

It’s a strange result, though. The 48/51 number comes from a broad question about Biden’s new plan, with few details:

Looking at that, one would think it illustrates a backlash to the federal government trying to dubiously jury-rig a de facto national vaccine mandate via OSHA’s Commerce Clause authority. You can’t have the feds heavy-handedly usurping states’ power over public health just because Biden thinks it might end the pandemic a little sooner.

But it turns out that Quinnipiac asked specifically about the federal workplace vaccine mandate, the most questionable part of Biden’s proposal. And … the public supports it on balance:

Huh? The public dislikes the idea of a federal vaccine mandate but narrowly supports the most imperious provision in it? It’s hard to make sense of that unless the word “mandate” makes Americans itchy in the abstract but less itchy once it’s attached to policy details they support. Federal mandates = bad. Federal mandates to force the unvaccinated at larger businesses to get their shots = good!

One key difference between Quinnipiac’s numbers and the polls from Axios and Morning Consult is the share of Republicans who favor Biden’s mandate. The latter two outlets placed that at around 30 percent but in the Q-poll just 17 percent of Republicans back Biden. That may be early evidence of conservative media going to work on GOP opinion to steer some “soft” Republican supporters of the mandate into opposing it. There’s no shortage of principled, practical, and legal reasons to object to it, as this Scott Lincicome piece demonstrates at length. You can be pro-vax and anti-mandate in good faith.

But it’s unusual for any Biden proposal, particularly a controversial one, to amass Republican support as high as 17 or even 33 percent in polling. Why are so many GOPers willing to cross the aisle on this subject? I think it’s because some are approaching vaccine policy not from the standpoint of being a Republican but from the standpoint of being vaccinated themselves. New from Pew:

Big divides between vaxxed and unvaxxed GOPers on some matters, less big on others. Philip Klein notes that 73 percent of Americans told Quinnipiac that they’ve received at least one vaccine dose so far but only 53 percent support Biden’s federal workplace mandate, which is proof that there really is a sizable pro-vax, anti-mandate segment out there (almost entirely on the right, I’m sure). Biden gambled that vaccinated Republicans would swing behind him on the mandate in the interest of forcing the unvaccinated to get immunized. That wasn’t a crazy bet per the results of the second question in the graph above but he may have been too confident, especially once righty media has time to convince Republicans that the mandate is unconstitutional and anti-democratic.

What the White House needs is a way to convince righties that even conservative influencers think vaccine mandates are good and proper. Hmmmm!

In a memo I obtained, Fox Corp. human resources chief Kevin Lord effectively communicated to employees that they all face a choice: Get vaccinated or face a daily Covid-19 test…

In effect, Fox has adopted a more stringent version of the vaccine and testing mandate President Biden announced last week — the mandate that the company’s loudest voices have trashed and deemed to be nonsensical and “authoritarian.” While Biden pushed a vaccination or weekly testing requirement, Fox is saying it will implement a vaccination or daily testing requirement for unvaccinated staff…

“Today’s news from Fox News follows a trend we’re seeing across the country: vaccination and testing requirements work,” a White House spokesperson told me Tuesday night. “We are glad they have stepped up to protect their workforce and strengthen the economy, and we encourage them convey to their audience that these types of practices will protect their employees, their communities, and the economy…”

A privately imposed workplace mandate is categorically different from a federally imposed constitutional Rube Goldberg contraption that imposes policy on 100,000 companies, but touting Fox’s new rules is one small way the White House can argue that forcing workers to get vaccinated (or tested) as a condition of their job isn’t “anti-freedom” even in Rupert Murdoch’s conception of that term.

The best polling news for Biden from Quinnipiac today has nothing to do with his mandate or even with COVID. It’s the numbers on abortion that the pollster got when it asked about SCOTUS and Texas’s new law:

Among registered voters, 63 percent say abortion should be legal in all (32 percent) or most (31 percent) cases, which is one of the highest levels of support since Quinnipiac University began asking the question in 2004. This is also the first time support for abortion being legal in all cases has exceeded 30 percent. About 3 in 10 registered voters say that abortion should be illegal in most (21 percent) or all (10 percent) cases…

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans, 67 – 27 percent, say they agree with the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion. In May, 63 percent agreed, while 28 percent disagreed.

More than half of Americans, 54 – 35 percent, say they do not think it’s likely that the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision will be overturned within the next few years.

Americans say 48 – 35 percent that the Supreme Court should make it easier and not harder to get an abortion in the United States.

Approval of the Supreme Court itself has sunk to 37/49, the lowest number since 2004, after standing at 52/37 last summer. Democrats look headed for a midterm wipeout unless SCOTUS nukes Roe next summer, which could scramble American politics overnight. The Quinnipiac numbers suggest that Americans wouldn’t look favorably on that happening. A sharp backlash to overturning Roe may save Biden and his party next fall even if his vaccine mandate is unpopular on balance.

I’ll leave you with one last data point. One factor that may be helping to sustain early support for Biden’s mandate is that the GOP doesn’t want to do much of anything policy-wise to accelerate the end of the pandemic. Get a vaccine if you want, they say, or don’t. Wear a mask if you want, or don’t. There may be some cohort within the population that isn’t crazy about the mandate but will back it if that’s the only strategy available to get a handle on COVID.