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Catholic Voters Support Legal Abortion

July 2, 2004

A new poll from Catholics for a Free Choice reveals majority of Catholics are prochoice; Abortion not expected to have major impact on the election

WASHINGTON , DC —Catholic voters are aligned with the rest of the nation on the issue of abortion. The majority of Catholics voters are more likely to call themselves “prochoice” (53%) than “prolife” (45%) on abortion, and a preponderance believe abortion should be legal (61%). Four in ten Catholic voters (38%) “strongly” or “somewhat” disagree that abortion should be legal, and more Catholic voters feel “strongly” in favor of legal abortion (33%) than opposed (22%).

Few Catholic voters consider abortion an issue of primary importance in the elections. Just one quarter (27%) say they would “definitely vote against” a candidate for president if that candidate had a different position from theirs on abortion; 38% say they would “maybe vote against” such a candidate; 34% say either the candidate’s position would not change their vote.

Three-quarters of Catholic voters (74%) DO NOT believe that Catholics “have a religious obligation to vote against candidates who support legal abortion.” This includes those who attend mass frequently (58%), Republicans (58%), and conservatives (54%). A quarter (24%) does believe this obligation exists.

The data suggest that among Catholic voters, abortion as a political issue does not provide much of an advantage to either side of the debate. Of those with strong agreement or disagreement with legal abortion, six in ten (58%) of antichoice Catholics and one-third (30%) of prochoice Catholics say they would “definitely” vote against the candidate who took a position on abortion “different from [their own].”

The complete poll will be released Tuesday,July 13. It is the largest and most statistically significant poll available of Catholic opinions on 2004 election issues and recent actions of the US bishops. From June 2-10, 2004, prominent DC polling firm Belden Russonello and Stewart surveyed 2,239 Catholics, including 366 Hispanic Catholics. The survey has a ±2.1 percentage-point margin of error.

Catholics in Political Life: Challenges to Faith in Democracy is a project of Catholics for a Free Choice designed toreveal insights into the motivations of Catholic voters as they consider the choices in the presidential campaign and to analyze how Catholics respond to the role of the Catholic hierarchy in the elections. Tomorrow: the Hispanic Catholic vote and Bush’s Hispanic problem. To obtain a copy of the results, please contact Michelle Ringuette at (202) 986-6093.