The poll found that slightly less than half of all Catholics (47%) approve of President Trump’s job performance. This marks a small improvement in his approval rate which was 44% in November 2019. Likewise, about one-third (34%) of Catholics say they will definitely vote to re-elect President Trump, and another 12% report that there’s a good chance. Similar numbers say they will oppose him (36% never vote for him, 10% unlikely) – the remaining 8% say it is possible that they would vote to re-elect him. This marks a slight improvement in his numbers as in November, 44% said they would definitely vote for him or there was a good chance.
These positive number for President Trump depend heavily on the devout Catholics. Among this group, 63% approve of the president. Similarly, 59% of devout Catholics plan to vote for Trump in 2020; another 8% say there’s a good chance, and only 20% say they will never vote for him.
It is a similar pattern in the head-to-head matchups against would-be rivals in the November election. President Trump still trails the Democrat among all Catholics in every hypothetical match-up at this stage of the campaign, but he has picked up several points since the first EWTN News poll in November 2019. Central to the president remaining within striking distance of his rivals are the strong economy – including 58% of Catholics who think the country is better off financially than it was 4 years ago and 63% of Catholics who think they are personally better off financially than they were 4 years ago – and a majority of devout Catholics who support the president consistently against all of his prospective Democrat opponents.
Among all Catholics, Joe Biden remains the favorite Democrat candidate at 29%, followed by Bernie Sanders at 24%. These numbers remain unchanged since the first EWTN poll in November 2019. What has changed is that Michael Bloomberg is now suddenly in third place with 17%. He was previously tied for 7th place with 2%.
The divide that exists among Catholics is also not limited to politics. It is deep and wide on a host of issues related to Church teaching and culture.
The poll found that Catholics are split when it comes to many of the most urgent social issues such as whether Christian owners of wedding-related businesses should have the right to not provide services for a same sex wedding or that the Catholic Church should not be required to allow individuals who do not follow the teachings of the Church to work in parochial schools.
There are, however, areas of common agreement among all Catholics. One is the concern over the question of gender identity and the use of bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms. A majority of all Catholics (55%) believe that these facilities should be based on biological sex at birth and not gender identity, whereas 30% believed that it should be based on gender identity, not based on biological sex at birth.
Another surprising area of common ground is on the death penalty. By nearly a two-to-one margin (57%-29%), Catholic voters support the death penalty, even while 63% are aware of the Church’s updated position on this issue (that Pope Francis has declared it inadmissible and that the Church should work with “determination for its abolition worldwide”).
A majority of all Catholics (49-35%) also believes that current programming from the entertainment industry is mostly unhealthy for our culture, and 57% of all Catholics believe there should be more faith-friendly programming coming out of the entertainment industry. A smaller majority (42%) of all Catholics believes there is an anti-Christian bias in the media; among devout Catholics that number rises to 59%.
Similar overwhelming numbers are found on the questions of whether Catholics believe in Hell and the Devil. Some 81% of all Catholics believe in Hell and 79% believe in the Devil, and of those who believe in the Devil, 79% say the Devil is not merely a personification or a symbol of evil but is a fallen angel.
Likewise, an overwhelming majority (72%) of all Catholics believe that certain acts are intrinsically evil, meaning that they are always immoral at all times, regardless of intention or circumstances.
While on the surface the results on belief in Hell, the Devil, and intrinsic evil are heartening, in truth they show that a majority of Catholics recognize the truth of what the Church teaches and still dissent, knowingly or unknowingly, from the Church’s teachings in several important areas. Less than half of all Catholics say that abortion (47%), euthanasia (45%), or physician-assisted suicide (41%) are intrinsically evil. This is, of course, in direct contradiction to the Church and is in sharp contrast with the views of active or devout Catholics; 71% of devout Catholics believe abortion is intrinsically evil, 70% believe physician-assisted suicide is intrinsically evil, and 64% believe euthanasia is intrinsically evil.
In the first EWTN News/RealClear Opinion Research poll last year, one of the most shocking findings was that only 49% of all Catholics believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist compared to 66% among those who accept all or most of the teachings of the Church.
This new poll is also a diagnosis of failure in articulating Church teaching clearly and effectively to Catholics on such vital moral issues that involve intrinsically evil acts – abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. As the question on the Real Presence in the first poll also revealed, even among the most dedicated Catholics, there are still gaps in living their faith. This is apparent in the latest poll’s findings on the issue of abortion. In the poll, 51% of all Catholics believe abortion should be legal, with 44% saying it should be illegal. Among active Catholics, only 56% say it should be illegal. Less than a quarter (23%) say that abortion should always be illegal, and 27% say abortion should always be legal.
Nevertheless, in a year in which every vote will likely count, no campaign can ignore Catholics, most so President Trump. Devout Catholics represent along with Evangelicals one of his most steadfast bases of support. This means they remain vital to his re-election hopes, and he cannot win in 2020 without them. In an election in which turnout might be decisive, 58% of Catholics say they vote all the time in major elections. This is notable, but among devout Catholics that number is currently at 75%. With months yet to go until the election, devout Catholics right now at least are poised to become that much sought after but seemingly ever elusive solid Catholic vote.