Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., would have wide support for her position denouncing a onetime Texas requirement that girls entering the sixth grade be inoculated against a virus that can cause cervical cancer in women.
A firm majority of voters—57 percent—oppose the Texas policy that made the injections mandatory unless a parent or legal guardian requested that they not receive them. The requirement has been vigorously defended by Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, who is battling Bachmann for the Republican presidential nomination; he has said he would err on “the side of life” in the fight against the human papillomavirus, or HPV. Bachmann has suggested that the vaccine causes mental retardation, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contends there’s no evidence of that.
The results of the survey appear in the latest installment of the United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll. Those surveyed denounced the Texas policy of requiring girls entering the sixth grade to receive vaccinations against the disease.
According to the poll, opposition to the mandatory inoculations is consistent across historic divides of class, race, and party affiliation. When it comes to gender, 56 percent of women and 58 percent of men said it was wrong “to require such vaccinations.” Among white non-hispanics it was 57 percent who said it was wrong, virtually identical to the 56 percent of blacks who responded the same way. Only among the youngest age cohort that was questioned—those 18 to 29—was there a majority supporting the policy: Just over half, 51 percent, said it was the right policy while 45 percent said it was wrong.
The Congressional Connection Poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, surveyed 1,000 adults by landline and cell phone from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
The findings of the survey, which focused primarily on a range of regulatory issues that Congress either has considered or will shortly be considering, showed a profound skepticism of government regulation in the abstract—but at the same time a notable opposition to Republican efforts to repeal assorted environmental issues. For instance, 55 percent of adults said that government regulation of business has been a “major factor” in the “current economic slowdown.” By contrast, only 29 percent said it was a minor factor, and 13 percent said it was not a factor at all. But when respondents were presented with arguments about pending Environmental Protection Agency regulations of emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that scientists have linked to global climate change, voters has a more favorable view of regulation, with 52 percent saying the rules should be implemented and 39 percent saying they should be blocked.
With voters erring on the side of public health and safety over the fear that regulation could stymie economic growth, it’s perhaps surprising that there would be so much opposition to the Texas policy, which has been endorsed by public health advocates.
In other news, the poll showed a hesitancy to repeal financial regulation that has stirred the ire of Republicans in Congress and running for president. In the Republican presidential race and in the halls of Congress, there’s widespread GOP support for repealing the Dodd-Frank bill, the 2010 statute that imposed greater regulation on banks and other financial institutions.
A majority of women—51 percent—wanted to leave Dodd-Frank in place, while 38 percent wanted to repeal it. Men were more divided, with 46 percent wanting to keep it and 45 percent wanting its repeal. The poll found that 63 percent of Republicans said they want the law repealed and only 30 percent wanted it kept in place. The converse was true of Democrats. Fully 68 percent of them wanted to keep the law in place and only 24 percent wanted it repealed. An interesting regional divide was exposed in the poll. Among those living in the East, 57 percent wanted to keep the financial-reform law in place; that number fell to 45 percent among respondents in the Midwest.
All of this suggests a certain unpredictability in the electorate as Congress faces an autumn schedule of important votes on regulation. Arguments about public health play out in ways that are hard to anticipate.
This article appears in the October 5, 2011, edition of NJ Daily.