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On Eve of Papal Visit, Poll Finds Practicing Catholics Support Church Teaching


On the eve of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, a new Knights of Columbus-Marist poll reveals that practicing Catholics approve of Pope Francis at even higher rates than non-practicing Catholics or Americans in general, and also support Church teaching by much wider margins than other groups.

Among all Americans, Pope Francis enjoys an approval rating of nearly six in 10 (58 percent). Among non-practicing Catholics the number grows to seven in 10 (70 percent), but among practicing Catholics, the number jumps to more than eight in 10 (83 percent).

On key issues, practicing Catholics also support Church teaching at higher rates than either non-practicing Catholics or the general population.

“It should come as no surprise that Catholics who regularly attend Mass support the Church’s position in the greatest numbers,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “But to measure accurately what Catholics really believe, this survey highlights the importance of looking at the level of Catholic practice in this country when discussing Catholics’ opinions on issues.”

Concerning the importance of various aspects of living out the faith, more than nine in 10 practicing and non-practicing Catholics see charity as important. (96 percent/practicing vs. 92 percent/non-practicing).

Both practicing and non-practicing Catholics see the following issues as important, although practicing Catholics are more likely to see the value of these issues:

• Daily prayer (96 percent/practicing vs. 79 percent/non-practicing).
• Following the teachings of the Church (93 percent/practicing vs. 70 percent/non-practicing).
• Receiving the sacraments (93 percent/practicing vs. 61 percent/non-practicing).
• Attending Mass regularly (89 percent/practicing vs. 42 percent/non-practicing).

In addition, 83 percent of practicing Catholics think it is important to belong to a parish andabout half of non-practicing Catholics (48 percent) see this as important. About three quarters of practicing Catholics (72 percent) believe it is important to go to confession at least annually, and about four in 10 (39 percent) of non-practicing Catholics say the same.

A more notable contrast was in beliefs about the Eucharist. About two-thirds of practicing Catholics (65 percent) say the Eucharist is the true presence of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, a similar number of non-practicing Catholics (64 percent) say it is just “a symbol.”

On abortion, 60 percent of Americans and 51 percent of non-practicing Catholics say abortion is “morally wrong.” Among practicing Catholics, that jumps more than 20 points to more than 8 in 10 (81 percent). Practicing Catholics are also seven points more likely to want substantial restrictions on abortion than Americans as a whole (91 percent to 84 percent).

Practicing Catholics (54 percent) are more likely than Americans as a whole (49 percent) and twice as likely as non-practicing Catholics (27 percent) to see same-sex marriage as morally wrong.

Almost three quarters of practicing Catholics (73 percent) support the protection of religious liberty – even when it conflicts with government laws. Two-thirds of Americans say the same (67 percent) as do six in 10 non-practicing Catholics.

This survey of 1,027 adults and 222 Catholic Americans was conducted on August 4th through August 17th, 2015 on both landline and cell phones. Results are statistically significant within ±3.1 percentage points and ±6.6 percentage points, respectively.

Additional results are based on a survey of 3,002 adults and 702 Catholic Americans conducted April 6, 2015 through April 14, 2015 on both landline and cell phones. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish by telephone using live interviewers. Results are statistically significant within ±1.8 percentage points and ±3.7 percentage points, respectively.