Poll: 74% of Catholics Support Recognizing Same-Sex Unions

Jim Burroway

March 24th, 2011

The Public Religion Research Institute has released a poll that probably won’t come as much of a surprise among Catholics. According to the poll, nearly three quarters of Americna Catholics favor legal recognition of same-sex union, either in the form of civil unions (31%) or marriage (43%) Only 22% of Catholics oppose all legal recognition of same-sex couples. When same-sex marriage is explicitly defined as civil marriage, support shoots up higher: 71% then support same sex civil marriages “like you get at city hall.”

This shouldn’t be surprising for two reasons. First, Catholics have now had 43 years of clergy demanding that they refrain from artificial birth control, a teaching that the average Catholic in the pews has roundly rejected. And having rejected one teaching that the Church considers a key teaching on sexuality, they are more than willing to reconsider other teaching as well. Besides, longtimes Catholics will tell you that the image of the meek Catholic obediently following church teaching died out generations ago, at about the same time the Catholic Church stopped being an immigrant church and became, at least for American parishes, an American church.

There’s something else going on as well. Catholics are very aware of the distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage. As every Catholic will tell you, you can be married at city hall or at an Elvis chapel in Vegas, but the marriage doesn’t exist as far as the Church is concerned. And as divorced Catholics know very well, you can have all of the divorce decrees and marriage licenses you can collect from civil authorities, but no priest will marry you unless the Church decides you’re qualified to be married.

The conservative CatholicVote.org thinks they have an answer for these poll results:

Who is driving the numbers behind the headline: “Catholic support same-sex marriage”? Catholics who are almost never in the pews. And yet, when it comes to the headlines, Catholics who can’t even trouble themselves to get to Mass with any sort of regularity are lumped in with faithful Catholics who actually try to follow the teachings of the Church.

Nice try, but that’s not the whole story. Sure, the poll leans heavily toward Catholics who go to church less than once a week (61% of all respondents), but look at the results among regular churchgoing Catholics. The percentage who supports either marriage or civil unions still reaches 64% among Catholics who attend church weekly or more often.

The report (PDF: 351KB/23 pages) does not describe the poll’s margin of error, sample size, or methodology.


March 24th, 2011

Talk is cheap. My late mother always said, “actions speak louder than words”. Catholics write checks so their bishops can financially support anti-gay campaigns across this country. Anybody can “say” they support equality. Their actions show their true feelings.


March 24th, 2011

Oh, come on, Kathy. I’d like to see you buying only from locally made products– not imported ones, much less from department stores and monsters like Walmart/Target.

I’m pretty sure somewhere in your trail lies some financial support for outsourcing, exploiting workers, and those tax dollars you pay also surely go into the pockets of crooked politicians.

The Catholic Church spends their money on several humanitarian efforts besides their horrid campaigns. It’s a mixed bag, as with most things.


Catholics tend to do better than any other Christian branch because of what I like to see as a non-male dominated development schools.

Yes, putrid preachers helm any Catholic institutions, but it is the good sisters who are the body and soul of the Catholic community. And these sisters from an early age tend to pass on more compassion and less judgement on children and adults than do evangelical and protestant male preachers, who actually are more involved.

It’s good when the bigots are shrouded in bureaucracy– it marginalizes them from the faithful.


March 25th, 2011

>these sisters from an early age tend to pass on more compassion and less judgement on children and adults

I’m guessing that some of those on this list who went to Catholic school may want to show you the “scars of compassion” from the nuns that taught them. ;) Just sayin’


March 26th, 2011

You might want to dig a little bit about this poll, and its sponsoring organization. Is the sponsoring organization neutral or partisan? Is it backed by partisan interests? If the sponsoring organization (cf. the poll released by Human Rights Campaign a couple weeks ago) is partisan, the poll is, in my opinion, junk science. Yes, a la our friend Paul Cameron.

If an attitudes poll is conducted or commissioned by an organization that wants to see certain results, this inherently compromises the validity and meaningfulness of the poll.

There is also the phenomenon of failing to publicize results from any poll that doesn’t come out “right.”

This cuts both ways of course. I wouldn’t trust a poll commissioned by NOM as far as I could throw ’em. Or Fox News for that matter.

As someone with some background in scientific research and statistics, I hate seeing our side resort to doing anything scientifically questionable.

Timothy Kincaid

March 28th, 2011


This is one site that does take polling bias into consideration. We look not only at the organization but also at the specific questions asked, language selected, lead up questions, sample selection, polling methods, margin of error, etc.

One cannot simply look at the organization to accept or throw out the results. You have to determine whether it was a push poll or an attempt to collect data and whether the built-in bias (there’s always some) materially skews the results.

A reputable poll will generally provide you the methodology, the question list, and the mostly-raw results.

PPRI, at Texas A&M, is pretty reputable so we can assume that this is not a push poll. If you have any specific objections or observations about the methodology, please go read the report and tell us your specific concerns.

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