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US Catholic voters deeply split on candidates, issues

February 25, 2020

A new nationwide poll of American Catholic voters shows a deep divide in political sympathies, and an equally deep divide on key moral issues.

The survey of 1,521 respondents who identified themselves as Catholics and registered voters found that 47% generally approve of President Donald Trump, while 53% disapprove.

While 54% of the respondents said that they were certain to (34%), likely to (12%), or might possibly (8%) vote for Trump’s re-election, in head-to-head match-ups President Trump trailed every major Democratic presidential contender. The surveyed Catholic voters chose Joe Biden over Trump by 51-40%, Bernie Sanders by 50-41%, Elizabeth Warren by 48-40%, Michael Bloomberg by 48-39%, and Pete Buttigieg by 44-40%.

By a narrow margin— 48 to 46%—the respondents said that they had voted for Hilary Clinton over Trump in the 2016 election.

A remarkable 20% of the self-identified Catholic voters said that abortion should be legal in all cases; only 11% said that it should always be illegal. And only 47% said that abortion is intrinsically wrong; 53% disagreed.

On other major moral issues, the same division was evident. Only 41% said that assisted suicide is intrinsically immoral; 59% disagreed. A substantial minority of the respondents— 40%—said that religious adoption agencies should be required to place children with same-sex couples. And 30% said that the use of bathrooms should be based on “gender identity” rather than biological sex.

Despite the insistence of Pope Francis that capital punishment cannot be justified, 57% of the survey respondents supported the use of the death penalty; only 29% favored its abolition.

The initial breakdown of the results did not distinguish between the views of practicing and lapsed Catholics. But only 35% of the respondents said that they attended Mass weekly. Another 42% reported that they attended Mass “monthly to yearly,” while the remaining 23% went to Mass less frequently or never.

The Democratic Party commanded the largest following (45%) among those surveyed, with the Republican Party trailing at 34%. Among the leading Democratic presidential candidates, Joe Biden won the broadest support (29%), followed by Sanders (24%) and Bloomberg (17%).

The survey was conducted by RealClear Politics, under the sponsorship of the EWTN television network.


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: donakows3881 - Feb. 26, 2020 9:02 PM ET USA

    You cannot be a single issue voter because then they've got you. -- Kenneth Povish, Bishop of Lansing MI (1975-1995)

  • Posted by: FredC - Feb. 26, 2020 8:36 AM ET USA

    Meanwhile, the bishops and priests snooze. They seem to be neutral on socialism. They seem to be neutral on contraception. They make little use of the media, including the Catholic media, in excessive fear of losing membership and losing tax exemption.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Feb. 26, 2020 5:04 AM ET USA

    These results are not surprising, given the apparent political preference of nearly all, if not all, U.S. bishops. This preference is patently evident every 4 years when we become the target of "voter's guides" that align with the political party that insists we not be "single-issue voters." We are to vote as "adults," with an "adult faith." We are subject in many Catholic environments to subtle demeaning and intimidating pressure tactics that can seem motivated more by ideology than religion.

  • Posted by: [email protected] - Feb. 26, 2020 12:37 AM ET USA

    A major reason for this issue of "Catholic" voters in favor of outright socialists and that includes Biden is the lapse of truth from the pulpit. Biden is not Catholic despite his claims. Socialist policy fails all and will probably leed to civil war in this country as it lets govt. steal ownership of your private goods and services. Urban dwellers want everything if possible to be free. Who is to pay? They want to destroy the Electoral System for a reason. CONTROL. BIG CITIES. OUR WORTH??