When the debate over health care policy began in earnest in 2009, the notion of an individual mandate wasn’t especially controversial. Republican policymakers — who’d come up with the idea in the first place — didn’t attack it, and the idea of Americans being required to carry insurance didn’t seem especially foreign or radical.

In time, obviously, that changed. What was once an area of bipartisan common ground quickly became the basis for hysterical attacks, and polls showed the mandate going from uncontroversial to widely hated.

Interestingly enough, as we get further from the hysteria, we also see support for the mandate returning to where it was when the debate began. Here’s a CNN/ORC International Poll released today, for example.

According to the poll, 52% of Americans favor mandatory health insurance, up from 44% in June. The survey indicates that 47% oppose the health insurance mandate, down from 54% in early summer.

“The health insurance mandate has gained most support since June among older Americans and among lower-income Americans,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “A majority of independents opposed the measure in June, but 52 percent of them now favor it.”

The usual caveats still apply, most notably the fact that one shouldn’t draw sweeping observations from one poll.

But if the CNN results accurately reflect a shift in public attitudes, I think Paul Krugman gets this right: “Since [the mandate is] the core of health reform, this basically means that proponents are slowly winning the argument. If we make it to actual full implementation, this reform will be irreversible.”

We’ll see what happens at the Supreme Court.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.