The intersection of politics and religion can sometimes resemble one of those spaghetti freeway interchanges. Cars go in and cars go out, but not always in ways you might expect.
Take the recent case of the fight between President Obama and the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops. A new poll has found that Catholics who are familiar with the issue tend to side overwhelmingly with the bishops. That is, they agree that the Obama administration is threatening their religious liberty by mandating that some church-affiliated institutions, such as schools and hospitals, provide free contraceptive services to their employees, in violation of church teachings.
So Obama must be in trouble with Catholic voters, right?
Actually, after an initial dip, Catholic support for Obama has been steadily rising for the last several months as the bishops have strenuously pressed their case against the president’s policy, according to the poll released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The poll release was timed to coincide with the contraception mandate, which went into effect Wednesday.
Catholic support has shifted from Obama to Republican challenger Mitt Romney and back to Obama since January, when the issue first flared into public view. In April, Romney led Obama among Catholic voters, 50% to 45%, according to Pew. By the most recent poll, conducted in late June and early July, Obama led 51% to 42% (meaning that Romney had fallen even farther than Obama had climbed).