DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new poll, one year before the 2020 election, shows that active Catholics who regularly go to Mass and accept key Church teachings are more likely to favor President Trump.
The initial poll, released Monday — the first of four opinion polls conducted by EWTN News and RealClear Opinion Research — uncovers political and religious differences between U.S. Catholics and the divides that exist among various Catholic groups, and demonstrates that 22% of voters who self-identify as Catholic are not at all monolithic.
No longer can "the Catholic vote" be neatly characterized as consisting of blue-collar, pro-union, JFK-loving Democrats who reminisce about FDR and be construed as a singular determining factor in swing states like Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Substantial differences can be found between young and old Catholics, and between white Catholics and Hispanic/Latino Catholics.
One major differentiator is the wide gap that exists between active Catholics and those less influenced by Church teaching, for example, between more committed Catholics and CINOs (Catholics-in-name-only), otherwise known as "cultural" or "cafeteria" Catholics.
When it comes to level of faith, self-identifying Catholics vary. A full 58% of Catholic voters polled say that they accept all (17%) or most (41%) of what the Church teaches. A quarter admit they do not accept some of the Church's key teachings. And 14% say they are Catholic, but their faith only has a minor influence on their life. Just 3% say they consider themselves former Catholics.
It was found that 39% of all U.S. Catholics go to Mass at least weekly; 49% believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; and a mere 13% go to confession at least once a year.
Among the most active Catholics — those who say they accept all or most Church teachings — the number is considerably higher: 66% of them believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist; 56% attend Mass at least once a week; 52% go to confession at least once a year; and 49% pray the Rosary at least once a month.
By contrast, 31% of those who do not accept key Church teachings believe in the Real Presence; 21% attend Mass weekly, 17% go to confession once a year and 21% pray the Rosary at least monthly.
How this plays out politically is also divided. Active Catholics support President Trump overall, giving him a 52% job-approval rating (evangelical Protestants are highest, at 60%).
A combined 53% of active Catholics say they are either sure to vote for Trump in 2020 (43%), or there is a "good chance they will do so" (12%). By comparison, Trump's overall job approval is 44% among all Catholics, 50% among all Protestants and 42% among the general electorate.
Approval of Trump's performance is far lower among Catholics who reject some key teachings (35%) and those whose faith only plays a minor role (28%).
Just 32% of those who accept some Church teachings say they are sure to vote for Trump or that there's a good chance they will do so, while 23% of those whose faith plays only a minor role lean towards Trump.
Yet even among active Catholics, in a hypothetical race between Trump and Biden, voters split evenly, with 46% supporting either candidate. Change the race to Trump vs. Sanders and there's another even split at 47% to 47%.
The sex abuse scandal has taken a toll. A full 63% of American Catholics say their trust in the leadership of the Catholic Church has been damaged by the clergy sex-abuse crisis, and 55% of American Catholics disapprove of how the U.S. bishops have handled the abuse crisis.
Even fewer American Catholics (44%) generally approve of how Pope Francis has handled the situation.
According to some analysts, a particularly striking aspect of the poll is that it confirms the Church in the United States has failed in forming and catechizing two generations of Catholics. Professor Robert George of Princeton University told EWTN News Nightly:
This is a failure of catechesis on the part of the Church that is massive. So even if you take the most devout Catholic[s], those who believe all of what the Church teaches or most of what the Church teaches, only 66% of those believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. You can’t get a more fundamental teaching to Catholicism.
The poll tapped 2,055 U.S. registered adult voters residing in the continental United States, with 1,223 of them self-identifying as Catholics. They were contacted between Nov. 15–21.