All Bolding mine.
Our polling on the birth control issue
We've had a lot of people asking us this week if we've done any polling about the birth control issue. We did a national survey for Planned Parenthood last weekend. Here are the key things we found:
-56% of voters generally support the birth control benefit, while 37% are opposed. Independents strongly favor it, 55/36, and a lot more Republicans (36%) support it than Democrats (20%) oppose it. Women are for it by a 63/29 margin.
-Only 39% of voters support an exemption for Catholic hospitals and universities from providing the benefit, while 57% are opposed to one.
-There is a major disconnect between the leadership of the Catholic Church and rank and file Catholic voters on this issue. We did an over sample of almost 400 Catholics and found that they support the benefit overall, 53-44, and oppose an exception for Catholic hospitals and universities, 53-45. The Bishops really are not speaking for Catholics as a whole on this issue.
-Republican agitating on this issue could cause themselves trouble at the polls this year. 40% of voters say Mitt Romney's stance makes them less likely to vote for him, while only 23% consider it a positive. With the Catholic oversample it's 46% less likely and 28% more likely. And Congressional Republicans are imperiling themselves as well. 58% of voters oppose them trying to take the benefit away, while only 33% are supportive.
Republicans will win this fall if they can convince voters that the economy stinks and it's Barack Obama's fault and putting them in power will fix the problem. If they want to make it about social issues and making it easy and affordable for women to access birth control, Democrats win.
This appears to be a very intelligent, calculated move on Obama's part. More important than the media and catholic groups making this into a "controversy", polls showed that only a minority actually opposed the rule. This blog provides some insight.
Obama Punks the GOP on Contraception
After two solid weeks of Republicans rapidly escalating attacks on contraception access under the banner of "religous freedom," Obama finally announced what the White House is proposing an accomodation of religiously affiliated employers who don't want to offer birth control coverage as part of their insurance plans. In those situations, the insurance companies will have to reach out directly to employees and offer contraception coverage for free, without going through the employer. Insurance companies are down with the plan, because as Matt Yglesias explained at Moneybox,
contraception actually saves insurance companies money, since it's cheaper than abortion and far cheaper than childbirth. Because the insurance companies have to reach out to employees directly, there's very little danger of women not getting coverage because they are unaware they're eligible.
That's the nitty-gritty. The fun part of this is that Obama just pulled a fast one on Republicans. He drew this out for two weeks, letting Republicans work themselves into a frenzy of anti-contraception rhetoric, all thinly disguised as concern for religious liberty, and then created a compromise that addressed their purported concerns but without actually reducing women's access to contraception, which is what this has always been about. (As Dana Goldstein reported in 2010
, before the religious liberty gambit was brought up, the Catholic bishops were just demanding that women be denied access and told to abstain from sex instead.) With the fig leaf of religious liberty removed, Republicans are in a bad situation. They can either drop this and slink away knowing they've been punked, or they can double down. But in order to do so, they'll have to be more blatantly anti-contraception, a politically toxic move in a country where 99% of women have used contraception.
My guess is that they'll take their knocks and go home, but a lot of the damage has already been done. Romney was provoked
repeatedly to go on the record saying negative things about contraception. Sure, it was in the frame of concern about religious liberty, but as this incident fades into memory, what most people will remember is that Republicans picked a fight with Obama over contraception coverage and lost. This also gave Obama a chance to highlight this benefit and take full credit for it. Obama needs young female voters to turn out at the polls in November, and hijacking two weeks of the news cycle to send the message that he's going to get you your birth control for free is a big win for him in that department.
I expect to see some ads in the fall showing Romney saying hostile things about contraception and health care reform, with the message that free birth control is going away if he's elected. It's all so perfect that I'm inclined to think this was Obama's plan all along.
In other words, this wasn't something that Obama needed to do that much about, except let the outrage run its course and die until the next controversy came. He appears to have chosen this compromise specifically because it riled up the GOP, and trapped them into making it into a "religious freedom" issue.
I remember back when I was an undergrad, during a course on Leadership and American Studies, we spent a good few weeks focusing on LBJ during 1964-1965. This was right around the Affordable Care Act was first being introduced in Congress, and the teacher was trying to get us to draw parallels. We watched most of the famous PBS "American Experience: LBJ" documentary. One of the most fascinating parts I remember from it:
McCullough: [voice-over]Richard Goodwin, Presidential Speechwriter: At that very precise moment, fortunately, Wallace sent a telegram to the White House, saying he'd like to meet with the President to discuss the situation. Johnson said, "Well, you just come right ahead."
Nicholas Katzenbach, Attorney General: That was the most amazing conversation I've ever been present at, because here was Lyndon Johnson, the consummate politician, and George Wallace didn't know what was going on at that meeting.
Richard Goodwin, Presidential Speechwriter: Wallace is about five-four and Johnson is about six-four, so he leads Wallace in and he sits him down on the couch -- Wallace sinks down so he's now about three feet tall -- and Johnson sits on the edge of the rocking chair, leaning over him.
Nicholas Katzenbach, Attorney General: "George," he said, "Do you see all of those demonstrators out in front of the White House?" "Oh, yes, Mr. President, I saw them." He said, "Wouldn't it be just wonderful if we could put an end to all those demonstrations?" "Oh, yes, Mr. President, that would be wonderful." He said, "Well, why don't you and I go out there, George, with all those television cameras -- do you see those television cameras?" "Oh, yes, I saw them." He says, "Let's you and I go out there and let's announce that you've decided to integrate every school in Alabama."
Richard Goodwin, Presidential Speechwriter: And his southern voice always deepened when he spoke to other southerners. He says, "Now, you agree the Negroes got the right to vote, don't you?" He says, "Oh, yes, there's no quarrel with that." He says, "Well, then, why don't you let them vote?" And he said, "Well, you know," he said, "I don't have that power. That belongs to the country registrars in the state of Alabama."
Nicholas Katzenbach, Attorney General: And Johnson leaned back and he says, "George," he said, "don't you shit me as to who runs Alabama."
Richard Goodwin, Presidential Speechwriter: And Wallace insisted; no, he didn't have the legal authority, he said. He said, "Well, why don't you persuade them, George?" He said, "Well, I don't think I could do that." He said, "Now, don't shit me about your persuasive power, George." He says, "You know, I sit down in bed in the morning when I get up, and I got three TV sets lined one right out back of the other. And I got a little button I can press, and I click it whenever I see something I'm interested in. I press the button and the sound goes on. And I had it on this morning, and I saw you, and I pressed the button and you were talking," he said, "and you were attacking me, George." He says, "Oh, I wasn't attacking you, Mr. President. I was attacking the whole principle of states' rights." He says, "You was attacking me, George." He says, "And you were so damn persuasive, I almost changed my mind."
Well, this goes on for half an hour or more, and then, finally, he turns to Wallace. He says, "George, you and I shouldn't be thinking about 1964. We should be thinking about 1984. We'll both be dead and gone then," he said. "Now, you've got a lot of poor people down there in Alabama, a lot of ignorant people. A lot of people need jobs. A lot of people need a future." He said, "You could do a lot for them." He says, "Now, in 1984, George, what do you want left behind?" He said, "You want a great big marble monument that says, 'George Wallace: He Built', or do you want a little piece of scrawny pine laying there along that hot Caliche soil that says, 'George Wallace: He Hated'?"
McCullough: [voice-over] In the end, Wallace agreed to ask the President to mobilize the National Guard to protect the marchers. The Governor was reported to have said afterwards, "If I hadn't left when I did, he'd have had me coming out for civil rights." Two days later, on national television, Johnson presented a tough voting rights bill to a joint session of Congress.
Pres. Johnson: But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause, too, because it's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.
Wallace didn't really want voting rights at all, so he hid behind the excuse that he couldn't do anything about it. So LBJ let Wallace scream about it until everyone knew that was where he stood, until he had more than enough rope to hang himself with. This example is what immediately comes to mind whenever I see the GOP fall for a trap Obama sets up.
As the blog stated, if they keep pressing it, then it becomes a "women's health" issue, something that Obama easily wins on. This is in keeping with Obama's overall rope-a-dope strategy that he's been playing heavily ever since the debt-ceiling crisis: Take an issue the GOP loves to misrepresent because it's the only way they can win on it, let them scream and shout about it at the top of their lungs, and present a compromise which doesn't necessarily get everything you want, but solves the 'problem' GOP made it out to be over, and appears to be a win-win for all sides. This either forces them to back down, or exposes what they really want.
And as the American Public sees more and more of the true GOP, they are less and less pleased. Eventually, of course, it will be an 'economy' fight this election, but it is surprisingly difficult to convince someone that a candidate who is absolutely nuts on every issue but the economy will somehow be a magical cure-all for the economy. I am currently working on my Masters degree, and despite what one usually hears about Evil Liberal Universities (TM), I'd say there's a fair mix of liberals, conservatives, and independents here on campus. I know a lot of all types around 2010 who were furious at Obama for either not being an usherer of a "Great Progressive Era," a "Stinkin' Big Gubment Socialist", or just apathetic in general.
Now, there seems to be a huge amount of buyers remorse with the GOP. Many of the liberal progressives have either come around and admitted that there was no way he could get everything done in 2 years, and the number of firebrand progressives who would rather not vote at all than vote for someone other than Ralph Nader or something. Same with the number of GOP "anyone but Obama" crazies. Most of them are die-hard Ron Paul libertarians who were gonna vote for Paul anyway like they did in 2008. Most strikingly, the number of first-time-voting independents who got swept up in the "hope and change" phase of 2008 but were apathetically "disappointing" about him are starting to come around, and its over little issues like this one. In general, the political atmosphere among them feels like Obama is the best chance for turning things around, because it sure as hell isn't gonna be one of those crazies who wants to outlaw birth control and execute gay people.