New polling: Americans do support religious freedom

A new New York Times/CBS News poll has just come out and deserves some close analysis.  Many political writers will be writing and blogging about the huge drop in the President’s approval rating over the period (Feb – now) of the HHS mandate debate–a drop which is confirmed in other polls.  Is the drop due to rising gas prices, or to peoples’ reactions to the HHS mandate?  Look closely at the drop among women (12%), among moderates (9%), and among White Evangelicals (9%).  Think about the astonishing 18% drop among people aged 30-44 years old.

We should look a bit deeper at the questions in the poll about the mandate, and the poll numbers reflect public sentiments that are not what the media and administration spokesmen would have you believe.  The administration, many in Congress, and their friends in the media have been pounding the theme for weeks that this is a “war on women” launched by the Republican party and the Catholic Church, who want to prevent women’s access to contraceptives.  As shown by this poll, people do not think that employers should be required to provide free contraception, if they had moral or religious reasons to opt out.

51% of those polled thought that any employer should be able to opt out, for religious or moral reasons, of covering birth control for female employees.  57% of those surveyed thought that a religiously affiliated employer (such as a hospital or university) should be able to opt out.

Let’s read between the lines a bit and consider the questions that should have been asked.  The question posed to those polled asked about employers covering “the full cost of birth control for female employees.”  But the HHS mandate itself goes much further than that, and requires coverage for sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.  The pollster did not ask about abortion-inducing drugs.  Instead, the poll designers asked only the question to which they thought they would get answers that proved their point.  They only asked about birth control.  Even though the pollsters attempted to bias the results of the poll by asking only questions to which they expected answers that supported their position, the results still did not show support for the HHS mandate.  If 57% of all surveyed support a religious employer’s right to opt out of covering birth control for moral or religious reasons, imagine how many more would support the right to opt out of abortion coverage!

Finally, those surveyed were nearly evenly split on the question of the debate being more about religious freedom and women’s health and their rights.  We have much work in front of us, but the public does believe in religious freedom and does support the right of employers to not provide coverage for “services” immoral or against their faith.

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