New poll asks Catholics what they believe about abortion
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While the Catholic Church teaches that procuring an abortion is always immoral, a majority of U.S. Catholics do not believe abortion is intrinsically evil and say it should be legal in all or most cases.
Washington D.C., (CNA) - While the Catholic Church teaches that procuring an abortion is always immoral, a majority of U.S. Catholics do not believe abortion is intrinsically evil and say it should be legal in all or most cases.
According to a RealClear Opinion Research poll sponsored by EWTN and published on Monday, 47% of Catholics in the U.S. believe abortion is "intrinsically evil," while a 53% hold otherwise.
A majority -- 51%-- say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 31% saying it should be legal except for late-term cases and 20% saying it should always be legal.
The poll of 1,512 Catholic registered voters was conducted between Jan. 28 - Feb. 4, 2020, and surveyed U.S. Catholic opinion on a range of subjects, including political affiliation, preferred presidential candidate, the morality of abortion, and religious practices.
U.S. Catholics were slightly less likely to support legal abortion than Americans overall. According to 2019 Gallup polling, 25% of Americans think abortion should be "legal under any circumstances," while 20% of Catholics take that position, according to Monday's poll.
But while 21% of Americans believe abortion should be "illegal in all" circumstances according to the Gallup poll, only 11% of Catholics think so.
Michael New, a visiting professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that religious practice, not self-identification, is the strongest predictor of opinions on abortion.
"What is a much stronger predictor" for Catholics, he said, is "attendance at Mass."
Among Catholics attending Mass at least weekly, the majority, 55%, answered that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
More than one-third of weekly Mass-goers, 35%, said abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest, or "to save the mother's life." Twenty percent said that abortion should always be illegal. Meanwhile, 20% of weekly Mass-goers said abortion should be legal in all cases, and 22% said it should be legal except for late-term cases.
Among Catholics who say they accept everything the Catholic Church teaches, and that their lives reflect Church teaching, a substantial number 27% said that abortion should be legal in all cases, and 15% said it should be legal except in cases of late-term abortion. A majority said that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
While they remain divided on the question of the legality of abortion, a far greater number of Catholics in who attend Mass weekly or say they accept everything the Catholic Church teaches also believe abortion to be "intrinsically evil,"
More than seven-in-ten Catholics, 71%, who say they accept all the Church's teachings believe abortion is intrinsically evil. 66% of "weekly-plus" Mass attendees answered the same way - far more than the 47% of Catholics overall who answered this way.
"The term 'intrinsically evil' isn't used all that much" in society, New told CNA, and thus this term might seem "unnecessarily harsh" to describe abortion if Catholics are not well-versed in the language of moral theology.
Catholics of other demographics did not vary with great significance in their answers on the morality of abortion. Catholics of generations X, Y, and Z were only slightly less likely than Catholics of the Boomer and Silent generations to believe abortion is intrinsically evil.
Hispanic Catholics offered perspectives on abortion similar to Catholics overall; 21% said abortion should be legal in all cases, and 32% said it should be legal except in late-term cases. Only 48% said abortion is intrinsically evil.
Beliefs about abortion vary significantly among political party affiliations. Catholics identifying as Republicans were more likely to say abortion is intrinsically evil, with 63% answering thus. In this subset, only 37% said it should be legal all or most of the time while 61% said it should be illegal all or most of the time.
Two-thirds of Catholics identifying as Democrats said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to just 37% of Republicans. Meanwhile, just 36% of Democratic Catholics said that abortion is intrinsically evil, compared to 63% of Republican Catholics who said it is.
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