By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
According to a new poll comparing Catholic voters to the wider electorate, there isn’t much difference between the two when it comes to moral issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.
The Marist College Institute of Public Opinion conducted a poll for the Knights of Columbus for the purpose of comparing the views of Catholic voters with those of the general electorate on controversial moral issues. Pollsters conducted interviews of over 1700 people across the country between Sept. 24 and Oct 3 and what they found was surprising.
While 57 percent of the general electorate believes the nation’s financial situation is the most critical issue facing the country today but the Marist poll found that this is only half the story. When it comes to morality, 73 percent of Catholic voters believe the country’s moral compass is moving in the wrong direction and a whopping 71 percent of everyday American voters agree.
Seventy-three percent of registered voters nationwide – whether Catholic or non-Catholic – say they want a candidate who upholds religious liberties and 63 percent say they’re looking for a candidate who stands for Christian principles.
The national debate about abortion may seem polarizing, but there is actually a surprising consensus among Americans on this subject.
In spite of the fact that 50 percent of U.S. residents claim to be “pro-choice,” only a small percentage of them actually favor unrestricted abortion throughout a pregnancy. The Marist poll found that 84 percent of Americans –whether Catholic or non-Catholic – said they believe abortion should be significantly restricted. The majority of respondents say abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson described the poll results on abortion as “indicative of the fact that the term ‘pro-choice’ – when applied broadly – needlessly polarizes the discussion of abortion and masks the fact that there is broad consensus among Americans that abortion should be significantly restricted.”
The subject of same-sex marriage produced the same surprising results. Three quarters of all practicing Catholics say they do not support same-sex marriage and seventy percent of Americans agree with them with only 32 percent saying they support civil unions. Another seventy percent of respondents said they would support a candidate who upholds marriage as being between a man and a woman only.
The poll found the most dramatic differences in the electorate to be within the community of Catholic voters. While 59 percent of practicing Catholics describe themselves as pro-life, 65 percent of non-practicing Catholics say they’re pro-choice. Non-practicing Catholics are far more likely to be pro-choice than the population at large (65 percent vs. 50 percent). While only 30 percent of US residents, and 75 percent of practicing Catholics favor same-sex marriage, 46 percent of non-practicing Catholics do.
The poll found that the views of Catholics voters are similar to the general population on issues such as government funding for the poor, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and global warming.
Catholics tend to differ from the electorate on the whole when it comes to supporting candidates who favor the death penalty. They are also more likely to favor a candidate who is committed to success in the war in Iraq.
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