A poll released Monday by EWTN/RealClear Opinion Research affirms Catholics cannot be considered a single voting bloc because those who actively practice the faith often differ substantially in their views from those who only identify as “Catholic.”
Democrat nominee Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump among likely Catholic voters, but Catholics who attend Mass more than once a week decisively support Donald Trump, while those who go to Mass seldom, or never, firmly support Biden:
[T]he frequency of Mass attendance correlates closely with which major candidate a Catholic supports. Catholics who attend Mass daily support Trump by 16 percentage points (58% to 42%). Catholics who attend Mass more than once a week supported Trump by 24 percentage points (61% to 37%). By contrast, Catholics who attend Mass less than once a year support Biden by a margin of 59% to 36%, and those who never attend Mass support Biden by a margin of 69% to 25%.
Catholics “are not a monolithic group,” EWTN stated.
What's important to Catholics today?
— EWTN News Nightly (@EWTNNewsNightly) September 17, 2020
Among devout Catholics, 72 percent attend Mass at least once a week, whereas 35 percent of all Catholics attend Mass once a week. Ninety-two percent of devout Catholics pray at least weekly, compared to 27 percent of those who identify as Catholic.
This is the third in a series of four polls by EWTN News/RealClear Opinion Research studying the Catholic vote ahead of the 2020 election.
“The issue lens that Catholics are using to choose a president has changed significantly since our first poll in November 2019,” said John Della Volpe, director of polling at RealClear Opinion Research, and he added:
Coronavirus, the economy, and healthcare are the primary concerns of Catholic voters as we enter the fall; meanwhile the importance of immigration has dropped by double-digits. At the time this poll was conducted, concerns related to religious freedom, abortion, and the Supreme Court ranked as less important factors for most Catholic voters. With the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, however, we expect the Supreme Court to become an increasingly important issue area in the coming weeks.
The survey found 45 percent of likely Catholic voters overall approve of President Trump’s job performance, while 52 percent of Catholics who attend Mass weekly or more often approve of the president’s performance.
“There is more than one Catholic vote,” Matthew Bunson, executive editor of EWTN News, said in a statement. He continued:
Self-identified Catholics show very different results in candidate support and political outlook depending on the frequency with which a self-identified Catholic attends Mass – this holds true for Hispanic Catholics as well. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic, nationwide protests and attacks on Catholic monuments and churches loom large in the minds of Catholic voters. The passing of Justice Ginsburg has certainly changed the dynamics of an already fluid race. Our fourth poll will again look closely at the Catholic vote in the coming weeks in light of these recent developments.
The coronavirus appears to have deeply affected many Catholics, according to the survey.
Among all likely Catholic voters, 79 percent said they have drawn closer to God during the pandemic, while 93 percent of those Catholics who attend Mass weekly or more often said the same.
Regarding the coronavirus restrictions in many states that affect church worship, 71 percent of likely Catholic voters said it has been distressing to be unable to attend Mass during the pandemic.
Asked if they now feel safe to return to Mass, 58 percent of likely Catholic voters said they do feel safe, while 42 percent said they do not.
The poll found Catholics are extremely concerned about anti-Catholic/anti-religious violence:
By a seven to one margin (83% to 12%), the overwhelming majority of Catholic likely voters expressed concern about vandalism and attacks on churches. More than three-quarters of Catholics (78%) and an even greater number of those who attend Mass at least weekly (83%) expressed concern about the anti-Christian elements of the recent protests, only 11% disagreed.
Additionally, among Catholic likely voters, 74 percent said they were concerned about attacks on statues of Catholic heroes, including Christopher Columbus and St. Junipero Serra, compared to 21 percent, who said they were not concerned. Similarly, 74 percent to 19 percent of likely Catholic voters expressed concern about protesters burning bibles, such as in Portland, Oregon, and about calls to tear down statues and other images that portray Jesus as a “white European.”
The survey also found 76 percent of likely Catholic voters support substantial restrictions on abortion, including 82 percent of devout Catholics who attend Mass weekly.
According to the poll, three in ten Catholics said they were less likely to support a candidate who backed abortion, while 22 percent said they were more likely to support him or her, and 33 percent said the abortion issue had no impact on their voting decision.
However, when more observant Catholics were separated from those who identify as Catholic, those numbers changed.
Among those Catholics who attended Mass at least weekly, 43 percent said they were less likely to support a candidate who favors abortion, while 23 percent said they were more likely to do so and 22 percent said it made no difference.
“[W]hen it comes to foundational Church teaching, the active or devout Catholics are increasingly at odds with their fellow Catholics, to the point that there are virtually two Catholic communities in the country,” EWTN observed. “This is obvious in the 2020 presidential election.”
Carl Cannon, RealClearPolitics Washington bureau chief, noted the most observant Roman Catholics “still tend to support Donald Trump and the Republican Party, as do large majorities of white evangelical Protestants – and are among the most highly motivated voters.”
“But the question for the GOP is whether there are enough of these voters to make up the difference,” he added.
Overall Catholic voters likely prefer Biden to Trump in the presidential race.
“Biden has led Trump among overall Catholic voters in each of the previous EWTN News/Real Clear polls,” EWTN observed. “Trump also continues to enjoy majority support from Catholics in certain subgroups such as those who set aside time to pray each day or attend Mass more than once a week.”
RealClear Opinion Research conducted the poll of 1,212 Catholics who are registered to vote and say they plan to “definitely” vote in the November election. The poll, conducted August 27 to September 1, has a credibility interval of +/- 3.01 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.