McCain outpacing Obama among Catholics 45-36

.- The latest Zogby poll shows support for Obama among Catholics remains low at 36 percent, while Catholic respondents support McCain at a rate of 45 percent.

A July 9 through 13 poll found that 47 percent of Catholics supported Obama.

Respondents overall were asked to voice their choice in a two-way race between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, respectively the presumptive Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. All respondents favored Sen. McCain over Obama by a margin of 46 to 41 percent.

The poll, conducted August 14 through 16, surveyed 1,089 likely voters nationwide and reportedly had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. Stephanie DeVries, Zogby assistant director of communications, told CNA by phone on Thursday that 293 Catholics took part in the survey.

When asked to name the issue they considered most important in the presidential election, voters overall named the economy at a rate 47 percent, the war in Iraq at a rate of 12 percent, energy prices at a rate of 8 percent, healthcare at a rate of 7 percent, and the threat of an attack on the U.S. at a rate of 6 percent.

DeVries told CNA that about 45 percent of Catholics named the economy as the issue they were most concerned about, while 12 percent named the war in Iraq and 11 percent named the threat of an attack on the U.S.

Analyzing the polling trends, Zogby communications director Fritz Wenzel told CNA in an e-mail “Catholic voters continue to support Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential race.”

“McCain leads by nine percentage points in our two-person head-to-head polling, but there is still a significant slice who are yet undecided,” he wrote. “Catholic voters tell us they are more likely to be concerned about international issues than the average American voter, and they also care more about social issues, particularly abortion.”

“McCain's strength among Catholic voters comes as Russian troops moved into the Republic of Georgia, and as he put in a strong, straightforward performance at the Saddleback civil forum in California,” Wenzel continued. “In that forum, there was a clear distinction between McCain and Obama on the question of when a human life begins, and Catholic voters may be responding warmly to McCain's defense of his pro-life stance at that forum.”

Catholic political commentator Deal Hudson, using a baseball metaphor, said the Zogby poll shows the relationship between Obama and Catholic voters is at “strike two.”

Classifying the controversy over Obama’s former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright as “strike one,” Hudson said at InsideCatholic.com that Catholics “shrugged off” the controversy because “Wright was so over the top they figured anyone nominated for president by a major political party couldn't possibly hold opinions that extreme.”

Hudson said “strike two” resulted from the series of stories concerning Obama’s position on social issues, such as Obama’s opposition to California’ s Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Further, the “tangled explanations” from Obama regarding his opposition to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, Hudson said, “have led to greater public awareness of his extremism on abortion.”

“The issue of infanticide and Obama has become a national story,” Hudson argued, saying that had Obama’s “above my pay grade” comments on abortion occurred in a televised debate, Obama might have been called for a “strike out.”

At a candidates’ forum at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California on Saturday, Sen. Obama answered Saddleback pastor Rick Warren’s question "At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?" by responding that determining when life begins is "above my pay grade.”

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