Journalists and pundits are chalking up President Obama’s plummeting approval rating to the high cost of gasoline. No doubt that’s having an impact. But there’s another important factor to consider: Obama’s decision to trample on the religious liberty of Americans.

Since the Department of Health and Human Services announced its anti-conscience mandate in late January, President Obama has faced withering criticism over the decision and his so-called “accommodation.” Two years after the passage of Obamacare, it served as a wake-up call for Americans who care about the Constitution, irrespective of their faith or political beliefs.

Now that Americans have had an opportunity to contemplate what’s at stake, polls show just how troubled they are by the HHS mandate.

A new poll today from New York Times and CBS News reveals a substantial majority of Americans — 57 percent to 36 percent — favor an exemption for religious-affiliated employers. And sizable majority — 51 percent to 40 percent — still favors a religious and moral exemption for all employers.

These numbers are even more telling because, according to the same poll, Americans view the issue as a debate over women’s health and rights (51 percent) compared to religious freedom (37 percent).

The administration’s decision requires religious institutions to provide for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization in their health coverage, even if it violates the teachings and beliefs of those religious institutions.

Writing about the poll this morning, The Daily Caller’s Mickey Kaus takes issue with how the New York Times framed the story, noting that women were split. Kaus notes, however, that by a margin of 53 percent to 38 percent, women oppose the mandate for “religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital or university.”

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.

The New York Times/CBS News poll isn’t the only survey to suggest the anti-conscience mandate is having an impact. The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack wrote yesterday that Obama fares worse among women after the anti-conscience mandate.