More American Catholics believe their religious leaders should be focused on issues related to poverty and social justice during this election season, rather than spending time and energy on other issues such as abortion, according to a new survey released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute.
The results of the 2012 American Values Survey demonstrate that American Catcholics -- and the "Catholic vote" -- is far from the monolith some politicians might like to believe they are.
"The survey confirms that there is no such thing as the 'Catholic vote,'" Robert P. Jones, CEO of PPRI and co-author of the report, told Reuters. "There are a number of critical divisions among Catholics, including an important divide between 'social justice' and "right to life' Catholics."
For instance, on the question of the public engagement of the church, the survey found important divisions between Catholics who prefer a “social justice” emphasis that focuses on helping the poor and Catholics who prefer a “right to life” emphasis that focuses on issues such as abortion.
- “Social justice Catholics” (60 percent): believe that in its statements about public policy, the Catholic Church should focus more on social justice and the obligation to help the poor, even if it means focusing less on issues like abortion and the right to life.
- “Right to life Catholics” (31 percent): believe that the Catholic Church should focus more on abortion and the right to life in its statements about public policy, even if means focusing less on issues like social justice and the obligation to help the poor.
- Among Catholics who attend church at least once a week, a slim majority (51 percent) believe the Church’s public policy statements should focus more on social justice and helping the poor, compared to 36 percent who believe that the Catholic Church should focus more on issues like abortion and the right to life.
- “Social justice” Catholics are more likely than “right to life” Catholics to favor Obama (60 percent vs. 37 percent), while “right to life” Catholics are more likely than “social justice” Catholics to favor Romney (67 percent vs. 27 percent).
Additionally, the survey showed complex opinions are divided along ethnic lines between white Catholics (63 percent of Catholics) and Hispanic Catholics (29 percent of Catholics).
- Hispanic Catholics are more likely than white Catholics to have a favorable opinion of President Barack Obama (70 percent vs. 48 percent), while white Catholics are more likely than Hispanic Catholics to have a favorable view of Governor Mitt Romney (54 percent vs. 27 percent).
- White Catholics are more supportive than Hispanic Catholics of both the death penalty (47 percent vs. 30 percent) and legal abortion (56 percent vs. 43 percent).
(Read the full survey report HERE.)
Cathleen Falsani is Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners.
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