Psst! Obama lost the birth control mandate debate

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Caught cocooning in public: Here’s what the NYT‘s story on its latest poll told readers:

In recent weeks, there has been much debate over the government’s role in guaranteeing insurance coverage for contraception, including for those who work for religious organizations. The poll found that women were split as to whether health insurance plans should cover the costs of birth control and whether employers with religious objections should be able to opt out. [E.A.]

If the Times says women were “split,” you know that must mean they were actually narrowly against the NYT‘s preferred position. Sure enough, when asked, “Should health insurance plans for all employees have to cover the full cost of birth control for female employees or should employers be able to opt out for moral or religious reasons?” women favored opting out by a 46-44 margin. The margin increased to a decisive 53-38  for “religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital or university.”

That’s among women. Unbeknownst to those who read only the Times‘ main story, the poll asked the same question to men. They were not split. Men favored opting out by a 20 point margin (57 vs. 37), except when a “religiously affiliated employer” was involved, in which case the margin increased to 25 points. Combining men and women, a substantial majority (51-40) favors allowing an opt-out–increasing to 57-36 where religiously-affiliated institutions are involved.

These are not close results. It’s hard to read this poll and not conclude that, contrary to some accounts, Obama wasn’t such a genius to pick a fight over mandated contraception coverage–because he appears to be losing the public debate on the question. That’s a conclusion the Times story effectively hides from readers.

It’s also one possible explanation for Obama’s otherwise somewhat mystifying overall drop in approval during the period–March 7-11–when the poll was in the field. But not an approved explanation.

Gas prices are the official MSM explanation. Got it? Gas prices.

P.S.: I’ve noticed that even solid NYT reporters–in this case, Jim Rutenberg–have their bylines over wildly misleading copy when the subject is the NYT/CBS poll. My working theory is that these stories are the most heavily rewritten by the Times‘ fabled meddling mid-level liberal editors. Can’t trust the cocoon to anyone else.

Backfill: WaPo also clinging to the birth-control-debate-hurts-GOPs narrative … Neera Tanden more or less admits the contraceptive mandate was originally ginned up as a wedge issue for the Dems. Initially, the Catholic Church only protested quietly. How dare they kick up a fuss today? Don’t they know there is a liberal ratchet–once you grudgingly agree to a step in the great march of progress, you can never have second thoughts? …  [Thanks to Alert Reader E.]…

Update: Maguire adds nuance. I hate it when that happens. …

Mickey Kaus