Underscoring my colleague Dan Burke's big take-away from the latest Pew survey, the latest Franklin & Marshall Pennsylvania poll shows Catholics in the Keystone State liking Barack Obama more than they did in 2008.
The poll, directed by super-reliable Terry Marradona, has Obama up over Mitt Romney by roughly the same 11-point margin that he defeated John McCain (11 points among all voters, 9 points among likely ones). But whereas last time he lost Catholics by four points (48-52), F&M has them in his corner by a point (45-44). That's not a huge swing, but in a state where a third of the voters are Catholic, it's hardly trivial.
It also tells you something about the political impact of the state's outspoken archbishop Charles Chaput, who was installed in the See of Philadelphia a year ago. In a recent profile, the Philadelphia Inquirer's David O'Reilly highlighted Chaput's "fervid religious-freedom crusade" against the contraception coverage mandate in President Obama's health care law, beginning with an op-ed in the Inquirer last February that called it "the most aggressive attack on religious freedom in our country. . . in recent memory."
Since then, the archdiocesan website has presented at least 28 documents criticizing the contraceptive mandate on religious-freedom grounds. Parish bulletins have denounced the plan. And Chaput has blasted it in speeches in other cities.
My sweet-tempered pal John Green, the national religion-and-politics guru at the U. of Akron, told Burke that Obama's surge among Catholic voters doesn't mean the bishops' campaign has been ineffective, just that Catholics don't regard religious freedom as the most salient issue. My guess is that Chaput would disagree. The point of his campaign has been to make the issue as salient as he can.