President Obama’s Standing With Catholics Difficult to Poll

How is President Obama's Relationship With Catholics? That all depends on which poll you're reading.

The Obama administration has been trying to mend fences with Catholic Americans after being embroiled in a controversy surrounding contraceptives and religious institutions.

A pair of polls out today point to vastly different degrees of success, or failure, regarding the results of White House outreach efforts to the Catholic community in the country.

A Rasmussen poll released on Tuesday shows that since winning 54% of the Catholic vote in 2008, President Obama's approval rating among Catholics has plummeted to 39%.

Republicans are obviously eager to point out the rift, with many 2012 hopefuls jumping on the subject during the Conservative Political Action Conference last week in Washington, DC. During an interview with Fox News last Thursday Mitt Romney said the White House "will have to retreat from this outrageous assault on religious freedoms."

The controversy was triggered by the Obama administration's proposal that religious employers, including hospitals and charities would provide contraceptives as part of employee health plans. This sparked immediate outrage because the Catholic Church, which represents the largest denomination of Americans, opposes the use of contraceptives.

The backlash was widespread with bishops and priests across the country reading statements at Mass opposing the new policy.

However, one gets a much different read on the situation from the latest Gallup tracking survey, which shows Obama's approval with Catholics was sitting at 46% at the end of last week. That number is only down three points from the 49% from the previous week. The difference is within the margin of error for the survey.

Gallup noted that President Obama is at risk if he pursues a policy that angers Catholics, who are typically "an important swing group in U.S. elections." However the polling organization concluded that, " So far, though, it appears the controversy over religious group employer health plans and contraception has not had a significantly negative effect on how rank-and-file Catholics view the president ."