New poll shows Catholic divide over 2020 election tracks with deeper rifts
Washington D.C., Feb 24, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- As Democratic primary voters choose which candidate will oppose President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, the second in a series of landmark polls shows Catholic voters are sharply divided over politics, and over issues of faith and morality.
A RealClear Opinion Research poll, sponsored by EWTN News, was released Monday showing Catholics equally divided over whether they will vote for or against Trump in November.
“In, kind of, ‘the broad frame,’ the Catholic vote is the American vote,” John Della Volpe, director of polling for RealClearOpinion Research, told EWTN News Nightly on Monday.
A poll of 1,512 Catholic registered voters conducted from Jan. 28 through Feb. 4, 2020, the EWTN News/RealClearOpinion Research poll surveyed Catholics on issues such as their preferred presidential candidate, political party affiliations, and matters of morality.
Monday’s poll is the second in a series of four polls that EWTN News has commissioned for the 2020 election year. The first poll, by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed more than 2,000 registered voters--more than half of them identifying as Catholic--from Nov. 15-21.
That poll, published in December, found various Democratic presidential candidates beating President Trump in the Catholic vote in hypothetical head-to-head contests.
Monday’s poll, just nine months before the 2020 presidential election, reveals a polarized Catholic community.
Politically, more Catholics believe the country is on the “wrong track” than “generally headed in the right direction,” 47% to 41%.
President Trump receives a 47% net approval rating from Catholics overall, with a 53% net disapproval.
Catholics are equally divided as to whether or not they will vote for or against Trump. 46% say they will either certainly vote for the incumbent or that there is a “good chance” they will do so; an equal percentage say they would “never” vote for Trump or that it is “unlikely” they would do so.
The remaining 8% of Catholics who say it is “possible” they would vote for Trump.
Those numbers change dramatically within a small subset of Catholics--18% of those surveyed--who say they believe all of what the Church teaches and that these teachings are “reflected in how I live my life.”
With that group, Trump enjoys a 63% net approval rating. Two-thirds, 67%, say they will certainly or likely vote for Trump in November.
Three-quarters say they vote “all the time” in federal elections, compared to 58% of Catholics overall. And a vast majority, 83%, say they will “definitely” vote in the 2020 general election, with another 10% saying they will “probably” vote.
A significant portion, 41%, of the “devout Catholic” subset are Hispanic Catholics.
The Catholic vote normally mirrors the general vote in presidential elections, and the responses in the recent poll match Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory in 2016.
For those Catholics who voted in the 2016 presidential elections, 48% say they voted for Clinton, while 46% voted for Donald Trump, and 6% voted for “someone else.”
Among Catholics who accept all of the Church’s teachings, however, Trump won them handily in 2016 by a margin of 60% to 34%.
The Catholic divide also reveals itself in hypothetical head-to-head matchups between Trump and various Democratic presidential contenders. Those matchups provide a general sense of where candidates stand in relation to each other, but because they are not adjusted to factor in the electoral college, they are not predictive of election day outcomes.
Among Catholics overall, Trump lost each hypothetical match-up with Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Michael Bloomberg. Biden enjoyed the largest margin of victory with Catholics, beating Trump 51% to 40%; Buttigieg saw the narrowest margin of victory with only 44% of the Catholic vote to Trump’s 40%.
Within the “devout” subset of Catholics, however, Trump beat each of the five Democratic contenders handily, by anywhere from 16 to 22-point margins. He led current Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders by a 16-point margin in this group of Catholics, 55% to 39%.
Divides among Catholics are also manifested in their moral positions and religious practices.
Overall, only 56% of U.S. Catholics say they accept “all or most” of the Church’s teachings.
Just more than one-third of Catholics, 35%, attend Mass weekly, or more frequently.
Other Catholics, 14%, attend Mass “once or twice a month,” or “a few times a year,” 25%. While nearly half of Catholics, 49%, say they pray every day, only 27% pray the rosary weekly or more.
More than eight-in-ten, 81%, Catholics believe in Hell, and 78% believe in the devil.
Catholics widely support the death penalty, 57% to 29%, despite a 2018 proclamation from Pope Francis that the practice is “inadmissible.” Only 36% of Catholics say they knew that the Church had previously defended the legitimate use of the death penalty and that Pope Francis “has declared it inadmissible.”
Despite the Church’s condemnation of abortion, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide as “intrinsically evil,” a majority of Catholics say those things are not intrinsically evil. Only 47% of Catholics believe that abortion is intrinsically evil, 45% say euthanasia is intrinsically evil, and 41% believe physician-assisted suicide is intrinsically evil.
The 18% of Catholics who say they believe all of what the Church teaches are far more likely than other Catholics to attend Mass and pray frequently, and to believe abortion, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide are intrinsically evil.
More than seven-in-ten Catholics among that group attend Mass weekly or more frequently. 71% pray daily, and 62% say they pray the rosary at least once a week.
The vast majority, 71%, think that abortion is intrinsically evil, 70% say physician-assisted suicide is intrinsically evil, and 64% believe the same of euthanasia.
Catholics who say they believe all of what the Church teaches are slightly more likely than all Catholics to have a graduate degree. They are much more likely to have attended a religious college or university than a secular school for their undergraduate studies.
They are less likely to be white than are Catholics overall, and are more likely to be black or Hispanic. While 37% of Catholics overall identified as Hispanic, 41% of those accepting all the Church’s teachings identified as Hispanic.
Although most Catholics who say they accept Church teaching believe abortion is intrinsically evil, that subset is still divided—as are Catholics overall—about the legality of abortion.
More than one-quarter of that group, 27%, think abortion “should always be legal,” and 15% think it should only late-term abortions should be legal. Only 23% think abortion should always be illegal.
Among all Catholics, 20% say it should always be legal and 31% say it should be legal except for late-term abortions. One-third say it should illegal except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is at stake, and 11% say it should be illegal.
Catholics overall are also divided on religious freedom questions. 45% say that religious business owners should not be required to serve a same-sex wedding against their beliefs, while 40% say they should have to do so in spite of their beliefs.
Catholics are evenly split on the matter of religious adoption agencies being forced to match children with same-sex couples, with 41% saying they should not be forced to do so and 40% saying they should be forced to do so.
Regarding the employment of persons who do not follow Church teaching, Catholics said that parochial schools should not be required to employ them, 41% to 36%.
However, on the matter of people identifying as a different gender than their biological sex, the majority—55%—said they should have to use the bathroom or locker room of their biological sex at birth, and not their gender identity, while just 30% said they should be able to use the facilities of their gender identity.
Among Catholics accepting of all the Church’s teachings, they were more likely to favor the religious freedom of business owners and adoption agencies on these questions.
More than half, 57%, defended the rights of religious business owners to chooose whether to serve same-sex weddings. 50% said that adoption agencies should not have to match children with same-sex couples, while 46% said that parochial schools should not be required to employ people who do not follow the Church’s teachings.