May 7, 2009 ( – A new Rasmussen Reports survey finds that more than twice as many Americans – and a wider margin of Catholics – oppose the University of Notre Dame’s decision to give an honorary law degree to President Barack Obama, as those who support it.
The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey found that, by a 60% to 25% margin, U.S. 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% oppose the honor and 25% support it.

“Faithful Catholics are sick to the heart over this scandal, which reflects decades of such scandals in our Catholic institutions,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society.
“The Rasmussen poll confirms that this is not about politics … 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.”
According to the poll, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans believe that it is 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 other Protestants (63%).
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.”
Knowledge of that bishops policy appears to be key to Americans’ views on the Notre Dame honor.  When asked whether President Obama should cancel his appearance at Notre Dame because of pro-life opposition, 52% of Americans say “no” and 30% say “yes.”  A poll released last week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life first asked respondents how much they had heard about “criticism of Notre Dame by abortion opponents,” then asked whether it was right or wrong for Notre Dame to honor Obama.  Although Mass-attending, White non-Hispanic Catholics opposed the award 45% to 37%, support for the honor was strong among all self-identified Catholics (50%) and all Americans (48%).
“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-choice” respondents are evenly split as to whether Notre Dame should snub the Catholic bishops.