NPR's Horsley falsely conflates observant white Catholics with all observant Catholics

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

NPR's Scott Horsley falsely claimed that, according to a Pew poll, "only a little over a third" of "Catholics who attend Mass weekly" thought it was wrong for Notre Dame to "honor" President Obama. In fact, the Pew poll found that 37 percent of "White non-Hispanic Catholics" who attend Mass weekly thought that; Pew did not present results for all Catholics who attend Mass weekly.

CORRECTION: In criticizing a May 17 NPR report by Scott Horsley for claiming that "only a little over a third" of "Catholics who attend Mass weekly" "thought it was right for Notre Dame to honor Mr. Obama," Media Matters for America wrongly asserted that the Pew Research Center presented results only for non-Hispanic white Catholics who attend Mass weekly and "did not present results for all Catholics who attend Mass weekly." In fact, Pew provided both in a May 14 article, reporting that 39 percent of all Catholics who attend Mass weekly said it was right for Notre Dame to invite President Obama to speak at its commencement, compared with 37 percent of non-Hispanic white Catholics who attend Mass weekly. Media Matters regrets the error.

On the May 17 edition of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley falsely claimed that, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, "only a little over a third" of "Catholics who attend Mass weekly" "thought it was right for Notre Dame to honor Mr. Obama." In fact, the April 30 Pew poll found that 37 percent of "White non-Hispanic Catholics" who attend Mass weekly thought it was right for Notre Dame to invite President Obama to speak [emphasis added], and Pew did not present results for all Catholics who attend Mass weekly. By contrast, a Quinnipiac University poll conducted April 21-27 found that 49 percent of "[o]bservant Catholic voters who attend religious services about once a week" said that Notre Dame should not "rescind its invitation to President Obama to give this year's commencement address."

Media Matters for America senior fellow Jamison Foser has repeatedly highlighted other instances of media conflating religious Americans with religious white Americans.

Horsley asserted: "But there is some new polling data that came out of the Pew Research Center that found a big gap between attitudes of Catholics in general, who support Notre Dame's invitation, and the most devout Catholics who attend Mass weekly. In that group, only a little over a third thought it was right for Notre Dame to honor Mr. Obama." Similarly, in a May 17 NPR online article about the controversy surrounding Obama's speech, Horsley wrote:

Although most Catholics approve of the president's visit, those who attend Mass regularly are more skeptical. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life, just 37 percent of those who attend Mass once a week or more say Notre Dame was right to invite the President, while 45 percent say the school was wrong.

From the Pew poll:

pewpoll

From the May 17 edition of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday:

LIANE HANSEN (host): The president continues to enjoy strong support from Catholics. Do you think this is likely to undermine that?

HORSLEY: Well, you know, the Catholic position has not been monolithic here. There have been some Catholics who have defended Mr. Obama and also defended Notre Dame as an academic institution where all sorts of voices should be heard. Of course, President Obama won the Catholic vote last November. He also won Indiana, a traditionally red state where Notre Dame's located, so it's no accident he's back there. But there is some new polling data that came out of the Pew Research Center that found a big gap between attitudes of Catholics in general, who support Notre Dame's invitation, and the most devout Catholics who attend Mass weekly. In that group, only a little over a third thought it was right for Notre Dame to honor Mr. Obama, and so those weekly Mass-goers are really more like evangelical Protestants. It seems like when it comes to politics, how often one goes to church may be a bigger factor than which church you go to.

HANSEN: NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Liane.

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