First, let’s talk about the big findings: Most Catholics who are familiar with the “religious liberty” issues agree 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.
But when you look at Catholics overall, Obama still has more support than Romney does. (So the conservative Catholics aren’t winning the minds of mainstream Catholics as much as they would like to. Yay!)
Now, here’s the interesting part no one is talking about. Again, it’s not really newsworthy; it just stands out. When the Pew folks did this survey, they got a *lot* of atheists and agnostics answering the phones…
It turns out that non-theists are more familiar with this controversy than Catholics-at-large and just as familiar with it as White Catholics… yet the percentage of us who agree with the bishops is abysmally small.
Furthermore, we are almost as familiar with this controversy as the most frequent of Church-goers:
What does that say about us?
I would think Catholics are obligated to be aware of this issue because it’s their Church complaining so hard about providing contraception to women and the like. But non-theists have no such obligation. We pay attention to this controversy, not because we have to, but because these are relevant issues to us. That speaks well of our movement.
Also, once we familiarize ourselves on these issues, the overwhelming majority of atheists/agnostics think the bishops are wrong. And, perhaps it’s my own bias, but I think we’re more credible in this case because we live outside the Church walls and have no obligation to agree with their leaders.
I wonder how many Catholics who say they agree with the bishops do so because it’s just what they’re supposed to do. Surely some of them, right? (I can’t prove that. It’s just a hunch. But I would bet on it.)
In any case, it’s a good sign when the most far-right Catholics out there don’t seem to have enough power to deliver more votes for Mitt Romney.
What else are you taking away from this chart?