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Le Moyne College and Zogby International Share Opinions of American Catholics

<p>SYRACUSE, N.Y. (For Immediate Release) …As part of an ongoing national polling effort to track the views of American Catholics, Le Moyne College has released the findings of the March 2008 Contemporary Catholic Trends (CCT) poll, conducted in cooperation with Zogby International. Among other topics, the survey featured questions about the upcoming papal visit, presidential candidates, and Catholic notions of sin. <br /> <br /> UPCOMING PAPAL VISIT<br /> Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting the United States April 15th to the 20th. Asked how interested they were in the visit, 32% say they are “very interested” and 46% say they are “somewhat interested.” Interest is highest among those who attend mass regularly, the 50% who attend weekly or more, and the 31% who say that religion provides “a great deal” of guidance in their daily lives. 88% of those who attend mass weekly or more say they are at least somewhat interested in Benedict’s visit, and 89% of those who say religion provides a great deal of influence are at least somewhat interested.<br /> <br /> Asked if they believed the pope is an influential world leader, however, only 17% say they believe the pope has “a lot of influence” while 29% say he has “only a little” (25%) or “no influence” (4%). The findings suggest that Catholics see the pope as a religious leader more than a source of guidance over political affairs. A quarter of those (25%) who say that religion provides them a great deal of guidance believe the pope has much influence on world affairs, while only 14% of those who are less influenced by their religion feel the pope is an influential world leader.<br /> <br /> “American Catholics, like the general population, take political cues from many sources. The papacy remains an important symbol of Catholicism, but Benedict’s importance is as a religious leader more than a political leader,” said CCT Principal Investigator, and Le Moyne assistant professor of sociology, Dr. Matthew Loveland.<br /> <br /> Overall, a majority of American Catholics are supportive of Benedict’s papacy, 70% saying they strongly (37%) or somewhat (33%) agree that he is doing a good job leading the Church.<br /> <br /> PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION<br /> With seven months until the 2008 presidential election, it appears that Catholics are beginning to follow the candidates closely. While in the October 2007 CCT poll only 46% of respondents reported paying “a good deal” or “a lot” of attention to the election, in the current survey 64% report the same level of attention. Only a small minority, 13%, reports paying “only a little” or “no attention” to the election. 36% of young Catholics, those between the ages of 18 and 29, report paying little or no attention to the election. Only 8% of those 30 and older are paying as little attention.<br /> <br /> Survey participants reported a range of opinions when asked for whom they would cast their presidential vote. John McCain received the most support (35%), while support for either Barack Obama (22%) and Hillary Clinton (20%) is nearly even. <br /> <br /> Catholic Republicans are strongly behind John McCain, 75% saying he will receive their vote. 12% of Catholic Republicans say they are undecided. Catholic Democrats are very evenly split between Clinton and Obama. Of those who identify as Democrats, 38% say they will vote for Clinton and 35% will vote for Obama. 22% of Catholic Democrats are currently undecided. Among those who reported being independent or having no party, 31% say they will vote for Barack Obama, 21% for McCain, and 12% for Clinton. <br /> <br /> Overall, 20% of Catholics report that they have not decided which candidate will get their vote. 45% of the undecided identify with the Democratic Party, while only 22% identify as Republican. 29% of the undecided reported identifying as “independent” or with “no party.” <br /> <br /> PERSONAL AND SOCIAL SINS<br /> A Vatican official recently made news by commenting on the nature of sin in the modern world. Bishop Gianfranco Girotti spoke about the emergence of social forms of sin in a globalized world, as opposed to the traditional notion of sin as personal. American Catholics appear to be in agreement. When asked about a number of personal behaviors, 31% of American Catholics agree that using artificial birth control is a sin and 73% agree that abortion is a sin. Those Catholics who came of age prior to Vatican II are the most likely to agree that using artificial birth control is sinful. 42% of Catholics 68 or older felt this way, while only 30% of those younger than 68 agreed. There are no generational differences in abortion attitudes.<br /> <br /> Asked about pollution, one of the new forms of sin Bishop Girotti mentioned, 76% of American Catholics agreed that it is a sin to pollute the environment. A 2005 CCT survey found that 75% of American Catholics believed that “willfully harming the environment is a sin,” and 85% felt that the “church has a responsibility toward the welfare of the planet.” In the current survey, younger Catholics, those who came of age after Vatican II, are the most likely to consider polluting the environment a sin. 83% of Catholics born after 1960 agreed that polluting the environment is sinful, while 70% of those older agreed. <br /> <br /> According to Dr. Loveland, “Younger Catholics are often described as being Catholic ‘on their own terms,’ meaning they make their own choices about morality and freely disagree with the Church. We see that in our findings about birth control, but in the case of environmental teachings it appears that younger Catholics are the most in tune with the Vatican.”<br /> <br /> Bishop Gianfranco echoed the long standing Catholic concern for the poor when he included poverty and inequality as new forms of social sin. CCT participants were asked a series of questions about their parish’s social services and relationship to the local community. 70% of respondents said that their parish provides social services of some kind, 88% agreed that their parish places a high priority on programs to help the needy in the community, and 85% report that their parish is very involved in social justice activities on behalf of the poor of some kind. 77% of American Catholics believe that parish money should be used to assist non-Catholics.<br /> <br /> By a wide margin, American Catholics endorse collective solutions to the issues that trouble their communities. Two-thirds (67%) say that “addressing the root causes of social issues is the best way to solve social problems.” 27% believe that “helping families that are in immediate need” is a better solution.<br /> <br /> APPROVAL RATING FOR U.S. BISHOPS HOLDS STEADY<br /> Contemporary Catholic Trends regularly tracks lay approval of Church leaders. As well as the approval ratings of Pope Benedict reported above, respondents are asked about the leadership of the American Bishops. <br /> <br /> Approval of the U.S. Bishops’ leadership has held steady since October 2007. As in the October 2007 CCT survey, sixty-one percent of March 2008 respondents somewhat (41%) or strongly (20%) agree that the Bishops are doing a good job, 26% somewhat (16%) or strongly (10%) disagree, and 13% report that they have no opinion. 70% of those who attend mass weekly or more approve of the Bishops’ leadership, while the approval rating drops to 53% for those who attend less often. Among the 17% who say they attend only on religious holidays or less often, the Bishops’ approval rating is 45%.<br /> <br /> American Catholics remain most satisfied with their parish priests. 90% of respondents strongly (68%) or somewhat (22%) agreed that their pastor is doing a good job leading the congregation. Another sign of parish health, 80% reported donating money to the Church in the last month, and 82% strongly (59%) or somewhat (23%) agreed that their parish uses its finances responsibly.<br /> <br /> American Catholics continue to be open to new ideas for parish leadership. 61% of respondents agreed that the Catholic Church should allow women to serve as priests. Generational differences are apparent, as less than half (47%) of those born in 1940 or earlier approve the idea, while two-thirds (66%) of those born after 1960 endorse female ordination. Catholics are nearly evenly split when asked if parishes should be able to choose a priest from available ordained options – 48% approve of the proposal, 40% oppose the idea, but 11% are undecided. <br /> <br /> * * *<br /> Zogby International conducted interviews of 1,500 Roman Catholics chosen nationwide from a Zogby compiled database of Roman Catholics identified in previous polls. All calls were made from Zogby International headquarters in Utica, N.Y., from March 25 through March 27. The margin of error is +/- 2.6 percentage points. Data are weighted to more accurately reflect the Roman Catholic population by region, age, race and gender. Margins of error are higher in subgroups and reported group differences are statistically significant.</p>
posted on: 4/9/2008