Home Christian News US Catholics More Polarized Than Ever About Still-Popular Pope Francis, Survey Says

US Catholics More Polarized Than Ever About Still-Popular Pope Francis, Survey Says

Beyond the divides in responses based on Mass attendance, there were differences in support for church reform based on partisan affiliation, with Democrats and those leaning Democratic showing significantly higher support for church reform. While smaller majorities of Catholic Republicans and those leaning Republican supported all church reforms studied, the exception was in recognizing the marriages of gay and lesbian couples, with only 36% of Catholic Republicans expressing support.

"61% of White Catholics align with Republican Party; 60% of Hispanic Catholics favor Democratic Party" (Graphic courtesy Pew Research Center)

“61% of White Catholics align with Republican Party; 60% of Hispanic Catholics favor Democratic Party” (Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center)

The study also showed racial and ethnic differences in party affiliation among U.S. Catholics. Six in 10 Hispanic Catholics (60%) said they were aligned with the Democratic Party, while a similar percentage of white Catholics (61%) said they were aligned with the Republican Party.

While majorities of white and Hispanic Catholics across age demographics supported every church reform surveyed, older Catholics (aged 50 and older) and white Catholics were more likely to support church reform measures than the younger cohort and than Hispanic Catholics — except when it came to recognizing gay and lesbian marriages. On that question, Catholics aged 18-49 and Hispanic Catholics were slightly more supportive, with 56% and 57% supporting respectively compared to 53% supporting among the age 50+ group and 52% supporting among white Catholics.

The question on recognizing the marriages of gay and lesbian couples also revealed a substantial gender gap — under half of Catholic men (47%) supported recognizing those marriages, while 6 in 10 Catholic women (60%) expressed support.

Catholic men were a few points higher than Catholic women across most other church reform questions, except for on the question of allowing birth control, where 86% of Catholic women expressed support compared with 79% of Catholic men. Majorities of Catholic men and women supported every surveyed church reform, aside from the minority support among Catholic men for recognizing the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.\

On a question highly contested in U.S. politics, the difference between weekly Mass attenders and all Catholics was also visible in support for legal abortion in all or most cases. While 6 in 10 U.S. Catholics (61%) said they supported legal abortion, only about a third of weekly Mass attenders (34%) said the same.

"6 in 10 U.S. Catholics say abortion should be legal in most or all cases" (Graphic courtesy Pew Research Center)

“6 in 10 U.S. Catholics say abortion should be legal in most or all cases” (Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center)

There was also a substantial Catholic partisan divide in support for legal abortion, with Catholic Democrats supporting legal abortion at much higher rates. However, Catholic Democrats and those who lean Democratic were more likely to oppose legal abortion (22%) than all U.S. Democrats (15%), while Catholic Republicans and those who lean Republican were slightly more likely to support legal abortion (43%) than all U.S. Republicans (40%).

The differences between white and Hispanic Catholics on legal abortion views were narrower, with 63% of Hispanic Catholics supporting legal abortion in all or most cases compared to 59% of white Catholics. Pew did not report the views of Catholics of other racial and ethnic groups.

The Pew survey also reaffirmed previous research about the changing demographics of U.S. Catholics, who represent 20% of U.S. adults. A third of U.S. Catholics (33%) are now Hispanic, a 4 percentage point increase since 2007. White non-Hispanic Catholics, who represent 57% of U.S. Catholics, have declined 8 percentage points in the same time frame. Black non-Hispanic Catholics make up 2% of the Catholic population and Asian non-Hispanic Catholics make up 4%.

Hispanic Catholics are also younger on average than their white counterparts — only 43% of Hispanic Catholics are 50 or older, compared with 68% of white Catholics. Hispanic Catholics are the majority group in the western U.S., while white non-Hispanic Catholics make up the majority in the Northeast and the Midwest. In the South, 49% of Catholics are white non-Hispanic and 40% of Catholics are Hispanic.

White Catholics are much more likely to be college graduates than Hispanic Catholics. Four in 10 white Catholics (39%) have a bachelor’s degree, while only 16% of Hispanic Catholics do.

While roughly the same percentage of white and Hispanic Catholics said they attend Mass weekly, Hispanic Catholics were more likely to say religion is important in their lives (48%) and that they pray daily (55%), compared with white Catholics, where 44% and 49% agreed respectively.

The survey included 2,019 adult U.S. Catholics and was fielded from Feb. 13-25. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

This article originally appeared here