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New Le Moyne/Zogby CCT Poll of Catholic Voters: Abortion Not the Only Issue

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE) … Catholics have been identified by many analysts as a key “swing vote” in the 2008 presidential election. As the candidates spend the final week of the campaign focused on encouraging turnout, the Le Moyne College/Zogby International Contemporary Catholic Trends (CCT) project polled a sample of U.S. Catholics to find out what motivates their voting decisions.

 

The prevalence of news stories about the Catholic vote and abortion suggests that this issue trumps all others for Catholics. The latest Le Moyne/Zogby CCT poll does not support this perception, as 29% of Catholics say they would be unlikely to vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on abortion rights, but with whom they agreed “on all issues except for abortion.”  In 2007, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The document addressed a number of social issues and encourages Catholics to consider the range of Catholic social teaching when voting. The Contemporary Catholic Trends poll has been surveying Catholics on their beliefs, spirituality and religious practices since 2001.

 

Asked about personal abortion attitudes, 22% of respondents say abortion should never be permitted, and of this group 57% say they would be unlikely to vote for a candidate who disagrees with them.  18% of Catholics say abortion should be allowed “as a matter of personal choice,” and of these Catholics 21% say they would be unlikely to vote for a candidate who disagrees with them.  According to Dr. Matt Loveland, Le Moyne sociologist and CCT Principal Investigator, “In essence, less than a third of Catholic voters appear to vote solely on abortion attitudes, but those who do tend to favor ‘pro-life’ candidates. Abortion attitudes point to important identity issues for some Catholics. Some would say a ‘real’ Catholic could never vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights.” Addressing this question, the poll found that 44% of Catholics believe “a good Catholic” could not vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights, but that 53% say a good Catholic could. 

 

What other issues matter to Catholics?

A key Catholic social teaching is the Preferential Option for the Poor, which holds that a just society is one that privileges the poor over those who are better off economically.  U.S. politicians, however, take pains to demonstrate their concern for the ‘middle class.’  How well do these potentially competing positions play with American Catholics?  In the October Le Moyne/Zogby CCT survey, 38% of Catholics agree, somewhat or strongly, that government policies should privilege the interests of the poorest Americans over those in the middle and upper classes, but 4% are undecided and 58% disagree. “Church teaching on this issue seems to run counter to recent popular sentiment against ‘spreading the wealth,’ but it looks like many lay Catholics agree with ‘Joe the Plumber’ on this issue,” said Dr. Loveland. 

 

The poll also covered other issues about which the U.S. Bishops have written, asking about them in the context of what it means to be “a good Catholic.”  Majorities agree that good Catholics can vote for candidates who support embryonic stem cell research (60%), the death penalty (55%), and can vote for a divorced candidate (77%).  On the other hand, majorities say that good Catholics should not vote for candidates who support same-sex marriage (54%), euthanasia (59%), and human cloning (76%).  Interestingly, those who attend Mass at least weekly differ from those who attend less frequently on each of these issues – they are less likely to agree that “good Catholics” can vote for such candidates.  The table below presents these results.

 

Can a good Catholic vote for a candidate who…

 

Percent saying yes among those who

 

Attend at least weekly

Attend less often

Supports abortion rights

45

61

Supports embryonic stem cell research

47

71

Supports the death penalty

47

62

Has been divorced

69

84

Supports same sex marriage

38

51

Supports euthanasia

23

47

Supports human cloning

15

24

 

 

The telephone survey of 1,000 interviews was conducted from Oct. 17 to 20, 2008

using a sample chosen at random from a Zogby compiled database of Roman Catholics self identified from previous polls.  The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.2 points for the entire sample and higher in subgroups.

 

 


posted on: 10/28/2008