Catholics divided on abortion
On the issue of abortion, the survey of Catholic voters taken after the release of the Supreme Court’s June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, found that Catholics remain very divided even as a massive majority (87%) wants various restrictions on abortion.
Surveyed on whether they agree or disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Catholic voters are almost evenly split, with 48% saying that abortion should be a federally protected right and 46% saying each state should determine its own abortion policy; 6% were not sure. Still, 13% of Catholics say abortion should be available to a woman at any time she wants one during her entire pregnancy while 8% say that abortion should never be permitted under any circumstances.
Overall, most Catholics favor restrictions ranging from abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, 27%; until 15 weeks, when the baby can feel pain, 20%; only during the first six months of pregnancy, 13%; until a heartbeat can be detected, 10%; or only to save the life of the mother, 9%. Catholics who attend Mass once a week or more favor the overturn of Roe by 75%, while 50% of those who attend a few times a year or less believe abortion should be a federally protected right.
Catholics are similarly divided on whether they would be more or less likely to support a candidate who agrees with the overturn of Roe v. Wade, with 42% saying they would be more likely and 42% saying they would be less likely; 16% are not sure.
On the recent controversy surrounding pregnancy resource centers, some two-thirds of Catholic voters support public funding for these centers, where pregnant women can seek help with alternatives to abortion, while 18% are opposed and the remainder are not sure. Likewise, 62% say that political and church leaders should be speaking out against the recent attacks and acts of vandalism on pregnancy resource centers, compared with 15% who say they should not and another 23% who are not sure.
Inflation, jobs are major worries
Abortion, however, is not the most important issue to Catholic voters as they look to the midterms. While a major element of the Democrat campaign for the 2022 election, abortion trails significantly behind other issues, including inflation and the economy, as most important. Only 10% of Catholics say abortion is the most important issue facing the nation — tied with immigration, while 34% say inflation and another nearly 20% say the economy/jobs.
Like most Americans, Catholics are feeling the impact of inflation. Asked how much their personal finances have been affected by rising prices and inflation, 81% of Catholic voters say that inflation has impacted them, while only 19% say not much or not at all.
A plurality (41%) place the blame for inflation on Biden and his administration, while nearly 32% blame it on the global slowdown due to COVID-19 or the Russian invasion of Ukraine (more than 9%), and 17% say all of the above or they don’t know. As for the Inflation Reduction Act that the president recently signed into law, Catholics express little confidence that it will reduce inflation. A majority of Catholics (54%) say they don’t have much or any confidence that it will reduce inflation, while 37% say they have a great deal or some confidence and the rest are not sure.
Hispanic support slipping for Biden, Democrats
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One potentially significant development the poll found was a decline in support for the president and Democrats in general among Hispanic Catholics — historically a reliable Democrat voting bloc.
When asked how they feel Biden is handling his job as president, 50% of Hispanic Catholics say they strongly approve (11%) or approve (39%), while nearly 47% say they either disapprove (7%) or strongly disapprove (40%). Biden’s numbers among white Catholics are much worse, with 54% strongly disapproving (51%) or disapproving (4%), compared with 44%, who either strongly approve (16%) or approve (28%). Among African-American Catholics, he enjoys a very high approval rate of 90%, with 12% approving strongly and 78% approving. The first EWTN/RealClear poll in July found that Biden’s approval rating among white Catholics was 36%, 59% among Hispanic Catholics, and 72% among Black Catholics.
As for whether he should run for re-election, the president is facing a serious electoral and demographic challenge. Only 17% of white Catholics think he should run, while 62% say he should not. Among Hispanic Catholics, only 28% say he should run, and 53% say he should not. Almost all African-American Catholics (94%) think he should run again.
When asked about their preference for candidates in the midterms, Hispanic Catholics are now evenly divided, with 45% favoring the Democrat and 44% preferring the Republican. Among white Catholics, Republicans hold an edge of 51%-44%. Black Catholics favor the Democrat 90%-10%.
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