Yesterday, in a post about the political implications of the Hobby Lobby case, I said: "Though I haven't seen any poll that released breakouts by demographics, I'll bet that the populations that support this decision are the ones firmly in the Republican camp already, particularly older white evangelicals." As someone helpfully alerted me on Twitter, there is such a poll, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, taken in April. And while they didn't ask about religious affiliation, it turns out that age shows the starkest differences other than party identification in how people view the contraception issue.
Let's look at some numbers, then we'll discuss what they might mean. Kaiser asked the question two ways: first in a simple way, and then by giving a bit more information about each side's perspective. The first question was, "In general, do you support or oppose the health care law's requirement that private health insurance plans cover the full cost of birth control?"
When presented this way, almost twice as many people support it as oppose it, and not too surprisingly, women are more in support (a 37-point margin) than men (a 20-point margin). But look at the age differences: almost three-quarters of people under 30 support the requirement, while those over 65 are just about evenly split. Some of that may be a function of partisan sorting (as an issue gets attention, people learn where the parties stand and take their cues from the leaders they trust), but it's probably also a function of different attitudes and openness about sex. The real significant difference here is between people who grew up before the sexual revolution of the 1960s (the over 65 group) and everyone else.
Now what happens when you introduce some of the ideas around this issue, like for-profit companies, religious beliefs, and who's paying?
Bringing in this information reduces support a bit, but mostly it seems to move a certain number of people from the "don't know" column into the "opposed" column. And the broad picture doesn't change: The regulation is still popular, and those among whom it's particularly unpopular are Republicans and older people.
This poll doesn't begin to include all the main arguments and perspectives on this issue, and it was taken a couple of months ago; many people probably heard about the contraception requirement for the first time in the last 24 hours. But it shows that in broad terms, public opinion breaks pretty much as you'd expect. And it shows why Democrats who are upset about the Hobby Lobby case's outcome see a silver lining in the politics. With a majority on their side, and the fact that this issue brings out a lot of distastefully puritanical and frankly misogynistic stuff from Republicans, Democrats would be happy to force their opponents to talk about contraception as much as possible.
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