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Polls split on Catholic view of Obama

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 14 2012 3:58 p.m. MST

FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2010 file photo, President Barack Obama listens to a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Catholics, older people, women, and young adults shifted towards Republicans in this month's elections and failed to support Obama's Democratic Party as they did in 2008, according to national exit polls. And according to an analysis by The Associated Press of exit polls in 26 states, Obama's diverse voter coalition appears even more troublesome for him in places expected to be closely contested in the next race for the White House.

Charles Dharapak, File, Associated Press

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Three new polls released Tuesday give conflicting reports on how the president is fairing with Catholics.

All is well on the Catholic front, according to Gallup, where President Obama continues to enjoy ratings very comparable to his national numbers.

But a Rasmussen poll told a very different story.

Focusing on the "likely voter," rather than the general population, Rasmussen found that "59 percent of likely Catholic voters nationwide at least somewhat disapprove of the president’s job performance, while 40 percent at least somewhat approve. But passion is on the side of those who don’t like the job he’s doing: 44 percent strongly disapprove versus 19 percent who strongly approve."

"Fifty-four percent of Catholics voted for Obama in November 2008,” Rasmussen also noted. "However, Republican hopeful Mitt Romney currently leads the president among Catholic voters by a 52 percent to 35 percent margin. Among all voters, however, President Obama leads Romney and all Republican hopefuls."

If Rasmussen's numbers are accurate and hold up, they suggest rough sailing ahead for President Obama in this vital voting demographic.

A national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found equivocal results. The poll, conducted Feb. 8-12 among 1,501 adults, found the country as a whole is closely divided on the contraception mandate, though Republicans lean heavily against and Democrats in favor.

Of greatest interest in the Pew survey though is the conflict between the female and Catholic response. 55 percent of Catholics favor the exemption, against 39 percent opposed. Meanwhile 53 percent of women favor the exemption, against 40 percent opposed.

Given this split, this self-inflicted political wound may not lend itself to an easy cure. Much depends on the level of intensity which women and Catholics attach to their respective positions. Placating the Catholics could dampen enthusiasm among left-leaning women. But pleasing the former could turn away swing voters who frequent Mass.

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