ikGALLUP POLL enquiry, completed recently in the United States reveals a hitherto unsuspected reason for the high popularity "rating" which President Kennedy is enjoying after 14 months in office.
The poll, conducted among a nation-wide sample of U.S. voters, showed that the President has succeeded in winning additional S upport from the Protestant element in the population without forfeiting any of the support he enjoyed among Catholics. (Whether he will lose Catholic support if the controversy over the "State aid for Catholic schools" issue develops is still to be decided.)
The 1960 Presidential election was, as is now well known, one of the closest in American history. One of the factors in narrowing the margin was the extent to which Kennedy's candidacy — although helped by Catholic voters — was hurt by defections from the Democratic ranks on the part of Protestants.
On balance — due to the preponderance of Protestants in the U.S. population — the crosscurrents at work would seem to have been to Kennedy's. disadvantage in the popular vote.
Surveys at the time of the election indicated that for every Catholic Republican who voted for Kennedy, there were eight Protestant Democrats who voted for Nixon.
A year ago last November, after the Presidential election, a Gallup Poll survey conducted among Protestants showed that they had cast their ballots as follows: 1960 ELECTION: Protestant Vote, — Nixon 62 per cent, Kennedy 38 per cent.
When the Gallup Poll recently C onducted a survey among Protestants — in which they were asked which of the two November candidates they would now vote for to-day if the election were to be re-run, the voting was: Kennedy 59 per cent, Nixon 41 per cent. At the same time, the survey showed that Kennedy, far from losing Catholic support, had, in fact, increased it.
In the 1960 election, the Catholic vote divided as follows: Kennedy 78 per cent, Nixon 22 per cent. The recent survey, in which Catholics were asked for their present preference, resulted as follows: Kennedy 89 per cent, Nixon 11 per cent. Kennedy's success in winning Protestant support is due, in part, to a decrease in fears that a Catholic in the White House would favour Catholics at the expense of Protestants. A Gallup Poll conducted last autumn revealed a sharp decline in the proportion of all voters who said they would not vote for their party's candidate if he happened to be a Catholic. Just before Kennedy's nomination in the summer of 1960, one voter in five (20 per cent) said he would not vote for his party's candidate under such circumstances. In autumn 1961, the "antiCatholic" sentiment had dropped to 13 per cent.