New survey shows gap between “social justice” and “right to life” Catholics

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A new national survey of likely voters shows a sharp contrast among Catholics, the nation’s largest religious group and one with significant membership in swing states such as Florida and Ohio, when it comes to choosing between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The American Values Survey, released Monday by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute, found that overall, likely Catholic voters are divided between the two candidates — with 49 percent favoring Obama and 47 percent favoring Romney — but differ greatly when broken down by race and religiosity.

A slight majority of white Catholics (54 percent) said they preferred Romney, while a significant majority of Hispanic Catholics (70 percent) said they favor Obama. Among Catholic voters who attend church at least weekly, six out of 10 said they supported Romney, while among those who attend church once a month or less, six out of 10 said they supported Obama.

There are about 77 million Catholics in the U.S. About 35 million voted four years ago, making up 27 percent of the popular vote. Obama won 54 percent of Catholic votes that year.

The winner of the majority of Catholics’ votes has won the popular vote in presidential races for the past 40 years, but the study’s authors emphasized that the faith group is anything but unified in its political views.

“The survey confirms that there is no such thing as ‘the Catholic vote,’” said Robert P. Jones, PRRI CEO and co-author of the report. “There are a number of critical divisions among Catholics, including an important divide between ‘social justice’ and ‘right to life’ Catholics.”

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