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Election-Night Poll of Catholic Voters Finds Broad Support for Abortion Rights, Protections Against Discrimination

November 5, 2020

WASHINGTON – A new national survey of Catholic voters taken during early voting and on election night reveals a diverse group of voters who broadly support abortion rights and access to reproductive health care, including contraception covered by health insurance. Data also show Catholic voters place little importance on the views of U.S. bishops when deciding between candidates, and affirmatively reject the bishops’ attempts to use religion to discriminate.

In apparent disregard of American priests and bishops who said that support for the Democratic candidate was not a morally acceptable choice, American Catholics supported Democratic candidate Joe Biden by four percentage points (51% to 47%). Biden also won over the small segment of independent Catholics by the same margin (50% to 46%). President Donald Trump won a small majority of white Catholics (46% to 52%), while Hispanic or Latinx Catholics went for Biden by a much larger margin (57% to 42%).

“This poll shows what we’ve known for some time about Catholic voters; a majority believe abortion should be legal and covered by insurance, and that it can be a morally acceptable decision for someone to make,” said Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, which lifts up the voices of this majority of Catholics. “These numbers also show that the attempt by the bishops to redefine ‘religious liberty’ as a license to use our faith to deprive others of services, health care access and human rights has been soundly rejected by the laity. Ninety percent of people we surveyed felt strongly that no one should be denied health care because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and two-thirds agreed that companies should not be allowed to use the owners’ religious beliefs to discriminate against their employees or customers. Lay Catholics understand that these actions by the bishops are fundamentally unjust.”

While abortion has dominated much of the media narrative about the Catholic vote, the poll found that it is simply not a top priority for the vast majority of Catholic voters, whose votes were driven by concerns such as the economy and jobs, health care, retirement security, and the coronavirus pandemic.

To the extent that abortion does play into their decisions at the poll, Catholics are nearly twice as likely to vote for a candidate who supports access to safe and legal abortion care rather than a candidate who opposes abortion and wants to make it illegal. A broad majority (57%) of U.S. Catholics say abortion should be legal, and they oppose efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court (53%).

The broadest agreement across traditional partisan and demographic lines was found in so-called “religious freedom” issues and how the government should weigh the religious beliefs of employers and providers of public services versus the constitutional rights of all Americans. More than 2-in-3 Catholics come down on the side of protecting individual rights and banning discrimination, including in the following instances that have recently been or are soon coming before the U.S. Supreme Court:

Same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt or foster children, and religiously-affiliated adoption agencies or foster services that accept public funding should not be allowed to refuse to work with these couples.
Catholic hospitals that take taxpayer dollars should not be allowed to use religious beliefs as a reason to deny patients access to certain medical procedures and medications.
It should be illegal for a private school or university to fire an employee for personal conduct outside of their job that violates the institution’s religious teachings, such as an unmarried employee becoming pregnant or an employee being in a same-sex relationship.
Employers should not be allowed to deny birth control coverage to their employees or their employees’ dependents because of the employer’s religious beliefs.
Read the full survey report here:

To learn more about Catholics for Choice or to speak to Jamie Manson, please contact West End Strategy Team,


Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to a person’s well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of all people to make moral decisions about their lives.