For Immediate Release
July 13, 2004
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Is There a Catholic Vote?
Major new poll demonstrates Catholics most concerned about peace, security and economic stability; show less concern about cultural issues
Washington, DC—Catholics for a Free Choice ( CFFC) released a
major new poll today indicating that litmus test issues for the US bishops
have little influence on the concerns of most Catholics in this political
The View from Mainstream America: The Catholic Voter in Summer
2004 demonstrates that Catholics rank protecting the US from
terrorism and resolving the war in Iraq as the top priorities for the
next president, with protecting jobs and Social Security and improving
health care, Medicare, and public education filling out the next tier
of concerns. Protecting the right to choose, promoting human rights, and
advancing gay rights were at the bottom of their priorities.
CFFC commissioned this non-partisan and wide-ranging poll dealing with both
international and domestic issues. The poll also asked about respondents’ presidential election
preference and reactions to the recent controversy regarding prochoice
Catholic policy makers and communion. Catholics were asked their views
on the war in Iraq , national security, tax cuts, jobs, education, and
health as well as social issues including abortion,
stem cell research, gay marriage, and assisted suicide. From June 2-11,
Washington DC-based polling firm Belden Russonello & Stewart surveyed
2,239 Catholics, including 366 Hispanic Catholics. The survey has a ±2.1
percentage-point margin of error at the 95% level of confidence. The margin
of error for results of the Hispanic subsample is ±5.2 percentage
Of all the issues in the survey, the most important factor in determining
how Catholics will vote in November is their confidence in President Bush’s
ability to resolve the conflict in Iraq: at the time of the poll, 54% had
confidence in the president’s ability to resolve the war in Iraq,
while 46% were not confident.
The high priority Catholics place on protecting Social Security and improving
Medicare and public education is underscored by the findings that majorities
support canceling some of the tax cuts and using the money to protect Social
Security and improve Medicare (74%) or using the money to improve public
The findings contrast sharply with the public agenda of the nation’s
Catholic bishops, who have by and large concentrated on candidates’ positions
on abortion, stem cell research, and assisted suicide, yet have remained
relatively silent on the issue of the war, the economy, Social Security,
and Medicare – traditional areas of concern for Catholics.
“Have the bishops even considered the issues important to Catholics?” asked
Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. “Sixty-one
percent of Catholics support legal abortion, and Catholics have made it
clear that this is not a key election issue for them. The fixation of the
US bishops on the issue of abortion is diminishing their relevance and
effectiveness as moral leaders for the Catholic church.”
The bishops’ effort to influence how Catholics vote does not influence
- By more than two to one (70% to 30%), Catholics say the views of
Catholic bishops are not important to them in deciding for whom to
- 83% believe that politicians have no religious obligation to vote
according to a bishop’s recommendation.
- Even among frequent church-goers, only 15% say the bishops’ views
are “very” important in deciding for whom to vote.
The survey also demonstrated widespread antipathy toward some bishops’ recent
decision to deny communion to prochoice Catholic politicians.
- More than three-quarters (78%) of Catholics disapprove of Catholic
bishops denying communion to prochoice Catholic politicians.
- 65% of Catholics who frequently attend mass (once a week or more)
and always receive communion disagree with the bishops denying communion
to prochoice Catholic politicians.
Other key findings of The View from Mainstream America:
The Catholic Voter in Summer 2004:
- Catholics are divided in the presidential race: 40% are for President
George Bush and 40% for Senator John Kerry. Ralph Nader receives 2%,
and 18% are undecided.
- Incorporating undecided Catholics leaning toward a candidate into
the total, Bush garners 47% and Kerry receives 49% of the Catholic
- Catholics who belong to one or more of the following subgroups feel
more strongly than others about the need to cancel some tax cuts to
protect Social Security and Medicare: Silent Generation (age 59+);
male Hispanics; widowed, separated or divorced; less educated; lower
income; non-church-going; liberal; and Democrat.
- Seven in ten Catholic voters (71%) support the death penalty for
convicted murderers, including 60% of church-going Catholics.
- Catholics lean towards support for economic assistance to foreign
countries in the form of foreign economic aid, 55% to 44%; however,
69% agree we need to focus on the needs at home and should cut back
- 74% of Catholic voters support allowing public schools to start
each day with a prayer in the classroom.
- 56% of Catholics lean in favor of school vouchers to help parents
pay for tuition costs in private or religious schools with tax revenue.
- Majorities of Catholics across demographic groups support stem cell
research, including conservative Catholics (60%) and frequent church-goers
- A small majority (53%) of Catholic voters support “making
it legal for doctors to assist in the suicide of a terminally ill
For more information or a copy of the poll, please contact Michelle Ringuette
at (202) 986-6093 x208.
To view the executive summary of the poll: www.catholicvote.net.
Catholics for a Free Choice is a non-partisan organization. We do not
support or oppose candidates for public office. The poll is an educational
tool whose sole purpose is to educate opinion leaders about Catholic attitudes
toward social and policy issues.