60% of Catholics think abortion should be legal, support lower among weekly churchgoers: poll

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A majority of American Catholics think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, although support for legal abortion is much lower among Catholics who attend Mass regularly, according to a survey. 

The Pew Research Center released a blog titled “9 Facts about U.S. Catholics” on Friday. One fact included on the list, based on research conducted from March 27 through April 2, 2023, found that 61% of Catholics living in the United States believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. This is a slightly smaller percentage than the number of U.S. adults who said the same (62%). 

Support for abortion differs among subgroups within the sample of Catholic adults surveyed. A slightly higher share of Hispanic Catholics (63%) favor keeping abortion legal in all or most cases than their white Catholic counterparts (59%). 

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Conversely, the difference in support for abortion among Catholics who attend Mass weekly and those who go less frequently is much starker. Only 34% of Catholics who go to Mass every week think abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances. Meanwhile, 68% of Catholics who attend Mass once a month or less or not at all support legal abortion in all or most cases. 

Michael New, a pro-life scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, reacted to this particular finding from the survey on X Friday. “Church attendance tells us far more about abortion attitudes than denomination,” he said. 

Carol Swain, a conservative commentator and former Vanderbilt University professor, cited the report's findings as evidence that “Pope Francis and progressive public Catholics like Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democrat President Joe Biden have been disastrous for orthodox Christians of all denominations.” 

Swain’s comments suggest that Pelosi and Biden, self-professed practicing Catholics who support abortion despite its direct contradiction to the teachings of their faith, are causing many of their fellow Catholics to stray from church teaching on the matter. 

The report measured the share of U.S. Catholics who attend Mass weekly at 28% while finding that 10% of American Catholics go to church once a month, and the remaining 62% attend Mass a few times a year or less. Catholic Church teaching, as laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, declares that “direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” and that “formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.”

Additional findings from the Pew Research Center show that partisan affiliation also plays a role in Catholics’ level of support for abortion. Forty-three percent of Catholic Republicans favor legal abortion in all or most circumstances compared to 78% of Catholic Democrats. 

The partisan divide within the Catholic Church as it relates to abortion mirrors the divisions among the American public as a whole. Among all U.S. adults, 40% of Republicans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 84% of Democrats said the same. 

Pew Research Center also released data examining U.S. Catholics’ views about Pope Francis. The pontiff has drawn the ire of some conservative Catholics over his restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass and the Vatican’s recent document enabling priests to give blessings to same-sex couples. While a majority of U.S. Catholics (75%) have a favorable opinion of the pontiff, views about Francis vary based on partisan affiliation. 

Specifically, 89% of Catholic Democrats have a favorable view of the pontiff compared to 63% of Catholic Republicans. The opinion poll measuring Catholics’ views about Francis is based on responses collected from Feb. 13–25. 

Pew Research Center Associate Director of Research Greg Smith shared his thoughts about the findings of his organization in an appearance on “EWTN News Nightly” on Friday. He noted that “those favorable ratings for Pope Francis have ticked down a little bit in recent years,” explaining that when the research organization asked a question about the religious leader in the past, the pontiff’s favorability rating among the American public “tended to be north of 80%.” 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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