Same Sex Marriage & Catholics: Survey Says…

Same Sex Marriage & Catholics: Survey Says… March 8, 2013

It’s all about how you read the signs…

Today’s headline to a study claiming that Catholics support same sex marriage and want the Church to change its teaching:

Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Catholics Want New Direction From Next Pope

American voter support for same-sex marriage is inching up and now stands at 47 – 43 percent, including 54 – 38 percent among Catholic voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to a 48 – 46 percent statistical tie among all voters on same-sex marriage December 5 and reverses the 55 – 36 percent opposition in a July, 2008, survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

Among all adult Catholics, 52 percent say the Church is moving in the right direction, while 31 percent say it is going in the wrong direction.

And there you have it. It’s clear isn’t it?

Further on in the findings of this “national poll,” we come across a rather significant detail:

From February 27 – March 4, Quinnipiac University surveyed 497 adults Catholics with a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent. The same-sex marriage question was asked of 1,944 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

So over a period of six days, they called 497 Catholics out of the 70+ million in the United States. Hmmmm….

Did they ask people why they identify as Catholic? Or how often they go to Mass? These are important questions. Many people say that they are Catholic when they are in fact not practicing Catholics. When asking people who regularly attend Mass, the answer on same-sex marriage is quite different.

This Pew Report from 2008 is a bit dated, but I think it makes an interesting point:

Polls show that frequency of worship service attendance is a factor in the opposition to gay marriage. According to an August 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 55% of Americans oppose gay marriage, with 36% favoring it. But those with a high frequency of church attendance oppose it by a substantially wider margin (73% in opposition vs. 21% in favor). Opposition among white evangelicals, regardless of frequency of church attendance, is even higher – at 81%. A majority of black Protestants (64%) and Latino Catholics (52%)[*] also oppose gay marriage, as do pluralities of white, non-Hispanic Catholics (49%) and white mainline Protestants (47%). Only among Americans without a religious affiliation does a majority (60%) express support.

I’ll be looking for something more current to post here. Nevertheless the point stands: when asking Catholics what they think about same-sex marriage, a responsible poll would first report why someone identifies as a Catholic, particularly if the poll is suggesting that this religious group wants its leadership to change Church teaching. People who do not attend Mass regularly (and, no, attending Mass on Ash Wednesday or Christmas and Easter does not count as “attending regularly”) are not as vested in Church teaching. It’s also interesting that those who are more involved in the Church seem to better understand her teachings… Coincidence? Sure…

Update, here’s a more recent poll sampling, also from the Pew Forum. If you scroll down to the section “Attend Religious Services,” you’ll see that church attendance corresponds almost inversely to opinions on same-sex marriage. For example, in 2012, those who regularly attend church were 28% in favor and 65% opposed. For those who do not attend church regularly, the numbers were 60% in favor and 31% opposed.

Yet, as we get closer to the Conclave to elect a new pope, you can be sure that this poll will be bandied about ad nauseam: “Catholics say new pope should support same-sex marriage.” Hmmmm….the opinions of 497 people who identify as Catholic for unknown reasons should be considered representative of the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide or even the 70+ million Catholics in the US?

Come on, can’t Quinnipiac do better? Hopefully, those in the news business will dismiss this study for the shabby work that it is and dig deeper. Look at what the people who attend the Catholic Church in countries around the world have to say about this particular teaching. Maybe start with France? Even NPR reported that 350,000 people showed up to protest the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Or to make it really interesting, ask Anglicans in the African nations what they think of the Catholic Church’s teachings on same-sex marriage.


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