New Poll: Catholics and Public Oppose Notre Dame Awarding President Obama

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 7, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Poll: Catholics and Public Oppose Notre Dame Awarding President Obama

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 7
, 2009

South Bend, IN ( — A new poll conducted by respected polling firm Rasmussen Reports finds a majority of Catholics and the American public oppose the University of Notre Dame’s decision to give an honorary law degree to pro-abortion President Barack Obama.

The Catholic college has come under intense criticism for awarding Obama and allowing him to give its commencement address.

The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey found that, by a 60-25 percent margin, Catholics say Notre Dame should obey guidelines issued by the U.S. bishops and refrain from awarding an honorary degree to the president.

Among all Americans, 52 percent oppose the honor and just 25 percent support it.

“Faithful Catholics are sick to the heart over this scandal, which reflects decades of such scandals in our Catholic institutions,” Patrick Reilly, the president of the Cardinal Newman Society, told

The results contrast with a Pew Forum poll released last week that found support for the honor was strong among all self-identified Catholics (50%) and all Americans (48%). Churchgoing Catholics were the most opposed by a 45-37 percentage margin.

Reilly, whose group has been at the forefront of the response to the Notre Dame scandal, added that the "Rasmussen poll confirms that this is not about politics."

He said the Notre Dame scandal "is not primarily about President Obama, Rudolph Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, and other pro-abortion politicians who have been honored at Catholic college and university commencement ceremonies over the past decade."

“It’s about Catholics who are fed up with Catholic institutions betraying their bishops and putting secular prestige ahead of principle, thereby undermining their own Church on the most serious moral issues of the day," he explained.

The Rasmussen survey also found nearly two thirds (63%) of Americans believe that it’s important for speakers at graduation ceremonies of religious universities to share the views of the university.

Although a majority (56%) of Catholics agree with the statement, support is also strong among evangelical Christians (87%) and mainline Protestants (63%).

Though the public believes Notre Dame should not honor Obama with an award, there is less support for having Obama cancel his appearance at Notre Dame’s graduation ceremony.

When asked whether President Obama should cancel his appearance at Notre Dame because of pro-life opposition, 52% of Americans say no while 30 percent say yes.
“Clearly people are respectful of the Presidency and probably don’t want politics to interfere with commencement ceremonies,” Reilly said. “But when the context changes to principle over politics, and Americans are made aware that a Catholic university is violating a directive of the Catholic bishops based on moral teaching, public opinion swings against Notre Dame’s action.”

Rasmussen Reports confirms in its poll summary that “the discomfort on the issue is focused on the university decision rather than on the president,” and “the response is tied more closely to the violation of the bishops’ guidelines that to the policy issue concerning abortion.”

While pro-life Americans strongly oppose the Notre Dame honor, even pro-abortion respondents are evenly split as to whether Notre Dame should snub the Catholic bishops.

In 2004 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement which reads, in part: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

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