Did Obama’s Religious Accommodation Satisfy Catholics?
When the Obama administration announced in January that it would not broaden the religious exemption to the mandate that employer-provided health care plans cover contraception religious and political commentators had a lot to say.
Initially, many pundits voiced strong critiques of the move from an electoral politics standpoint — arguing that President Obama was alienating moderate Catholic voters in key swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
Now that the Whtie House has moved to broaden the religious exemption, political scientist John Sides takes an in depth look at recent polling to try to determine if these predictions bore out.
Separating the data into three distinct time periods, Sides tentatively suggests both that the announcement correlated with a political dip in the President’s approval rating among Catholics and that the compromise appears to have rectified it:
Approval among non-Catholics increased slightly across the 3 periods: from 47% to 49% to 50%. But among Catholics there was a 3-point dip after the Jan.20 announcement (from 44% to 41%) and then a rebound after the compromise (back to 44%).
Sides also segments the data further by political ideology, mass attendance, and stances on abortion and suggests (tentatively of course) that:
The Catholics whose approval rating dropped most precipitously already overwhelmingly disapproved of Obama. It seems unlikely that many of them would have voted for him anyway.
As the U.S. Catholic hierarchy (and presidential campaign opponents) are clearly not done educating and organizing Catholics about their views on this policy, and some of the details of the accommodation remain unresolved, none of these results are written in stone. But at least in the short-term, some polls correspond with the view that the administration’s accommodation was a successful response to the concerns of many Catholics.