Since the birth control controversy broke, it has been an article of faith among even some neutral commentators that the battle would cause Obama to lose crucial support among Catholic swing voters.
But Gallup has performed a new analysis of its tracking data that should complicate this assertion: It finds that Obama has suffered no meaningful downturn in recent days among that consistuency, even among church-going Catholics.
Gallup is set to post the analysis on its Web site later today, and Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport gave me a preview of the forthcoming findings.
“Our analysis basically shows that Catholics’ opinions of Obama are little changed through Sunday,” Newport told me. “Our article will show that we can detect little change in Catholic approval so far.”
With the controversy continuing in the wake of Obama’s newly-announced accommodation — which has actually won approval from some Catholic groups — the new data casts doubt on the political efficacy of the continuing GOP and conservative attack on the White House stance. Mitch McConnell has vowed to keep up the crusade, though senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have edged towards supporting Obama’s compromise.
Newport said the data would show that Obama’s approval is at around 46 percent among Catholics. The larger tendency is for Catholic opinion to roughly track with overall public opinion, and Newport said that dynamic remains unchanged. “There’s been no statistical change in either direction,” Newport said.
Some right-leaning pundits have said that the real key to gauging whether the battle is damaging Obama is to look at approval among church-going, as opposed to secular, Catholics.
“We don’t see much change in church-going Catholics, either,” Newport said.
Newport cautioned that opinion could still shift, since the public takes time in processing information about big controversies. But the data reflects a full week that passed after the controversy hit full boil, Newport said.
The politics of this fight have turned largely on the framing: Opponents have cast the White House stance as an attack on religious liberty; while supporters have framed the debate as one about access to birth control and, more broadly, about women’s health. However Catholics see the issue, there’s little indication that it’s hurting Obama among them as of now.
Stay tuned for the full release early this afternoon, which will be posted on Gallup’s Web site.