WASHINGTON –– A new poll shows that nearly 70 percent of U.S. Catholics agree with comments made by Pope Francis in his recent extensive interview with a Jesuit Italian journal where he stressed that Catholics cannot "insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods."
According to the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, support for the pope's remarks was about the same across age groups, sexes and weekly Massgoers and those who attend church less frequently. Twenty-three percent disagreed with his comments.
The poll – taken Sept. 23-29 and released Oct. 4 – also showed that 53 percent of American Catholics view Pope Francis favorably; 36 percent have a very favorable opinion of him and 4 percent view him negatively.
The results were similar to a poll released Sept. 12 by the Washington-based Pew Research's Religion & Public Life Project Center, which that found 79 percent of Catholics have a favorable view of the pope and 4 percent thought poorly of him.
Seventeen percent of those surveyed in the Pew center's poll conducted Sept. 4-8 had no opinion of the current pope.
The poll – a national sampling of 1,506 adults with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent points – showed older Catholics were slightly more enthused about the pope, giving him a 44 percent rating, compared to 31 percent of those under the age of 50 who gave him a favorable rating.
The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Connecticut not only surveyed American Catholic's views of Pope Francis but also sought their views on same-sex marriage, abortion and women's ordination. It surveyed 1,776 American adults – with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points – and surveyed 392 Catholics with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
The survey found that U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage 60 to 31 percent, compared to the 56 to 36 percent support among all U.S. adults. More devout Catholics, who go to Mass about once a week, support same-sex marriage at a slightly lower level, 53 to 40 percent, while less observant Catholics support it 65 to 26 percent.
The Quinnipiac poll found Catholic views on abortion slightly different from the American public. Sixteen percent of polled Catholics said abortion should be legal in all cases, compared to 19 percent of all Americans and 21 percent of polled Catholics said abortion should be illegal in all cases, compared to 16 percent of all Americans.
The survey also found that Catholic women support same-sex marriage 72 to 22 percent, while Catholic men were more divided at 49 to 40 percent. It also found that 60 percent of polled U.S. Catholics support the ordination of women priests while 30 percent oppose it.
The Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage. Church teaching upholds the sanctity of traditional marriage, between one man and one woman, and also teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. The church says that barring the ordination of women is definitive teaching "and not open to debate among Catholics."
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, called the Quinnipiac poll flawed. In an Oct. 4 statement he said: "There are more than 78 million Catholics in the U.S. and Quinnipiac interviewed 392 of them." He also faulted the poll for failing to distinguish between those who go to church monthly and those who no longer go to Mass.
"They are lumped together for a reason, and it is a dishonest one: Every poll ever taken shows that the more practicing the Catholic is, the more in line he is with the church's teachings," he said.