Same Sex Marriage & Catholics: Survey Says…

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 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.


Categories:Breaking News Marriage

  • Magnum Hunter

    Greg –
    The answer to your deeper question of “why”: it is because the mainstream media pushes “gay rights” down everyone’s throat constantly.
    If you don’t know about the tie-in between the mainstream media and the Gay Rights Agenda, you don’t know what’s really going on. Those who are weak in their knowledge of the Faith hear the media pounding daily that the same-sex attraction disorder is not only normal, but must be praised, encouraged and accepted as normal even by those who know it isn’t. When one hears a lie daily and the truth rarely if at all, it is very easy to “go with the flow” and decide that if it is said every day, it must be right. The same with abortion – praised by those with their backs to their God and condemned by those trying to draw closer to God.

  • CB2

    Does anyone ever look at the statistical significance of this polls. To quote from a paper on statistical significance: ‘Mathematical probabilities like p-values range from 0 (no chance) to 1 (absolute certainty). So 0.5 means a 50 per cent chance and 0.05 means a 5 per cent chance.
    In most sciences, results yielding a p-value of .05 are considered on the borderline of statistical significance. If the p-value is under .01, results are considered statistically significant and if it’s below .005 they are considered highly statistically significant.”
    Thus, the QPac poll, even if the correct questions were asked relevant to active Catholic life, the results quoted are highly suspect, bordering on being insignificant. Assuming the questions were posed to obtain the result wanted, the QPac Poll is trash.

  • http://facebook yolanda centano

    i do not belive in same sex marriage and i dont attend mass due to my health but i am change that. i hope that the us wakes up

  • Paul C

    Why does it matter what the majority believes anyway. Truth is not defined by polls

  • TamiT

    Heaven forbid the media would ever want to report anything that goes against popular opinion and that makes the Catholic Church look like it might actually be upholding what its TRUE followers want it to uphold.


    Dear Pia~
    First let me say that I agree with you that it would be helpful to know a lot more about the survey design. While I am uneasy about the tendency of conservative Catholics to “write off” infrequent mass attenders, I do wonder whether it included those answering “Are you a Catholic?” with “recovering, or ”I was raised Catholic”.
    Regardless of the accuracy of this particular poll, it appears from many surveys that American Catholics (i.e; a baptized person answering Yes I am a Catholic) favor gay civil marriages at about the same rate as the general population.

    The deeper question is “why?”

    I believe that one reason is that the leaders of the Church have gotten on the band wagon that this is about “defending” or “protecting” straight marriages. How does my cousin’s gay marriage affect my marriage, my daughter’s, my sister’s or for that matter your marriage? From a public policy point of view, how will society be worse of in five, twenty, fifty or a hundred years if poor Mrs. Windsor gets her $360,000 back from the IRS?

    I suspect another reason is that for many of us untutored in theology, being Catholic is a family thing. As more and more gay people “come out,” their relatives who love them find that the drumbeat of demonization, deligitimization and double standard, sadly, some of it from Catholic sources, just doesn’t square with their examined consciences.

    Finally, I ask myself, all the time, why, given that gays are maybe 4% or so of the population, and only a proportion of them will want to get married, is this issue such a big deal that it’s cast on an equal level with abortion?
    I sincerely will appreciate your thoughts on these comments,

    Pax tecum, Greg

    • Pia de Solenni


      I think you raise several interesting points. Since at least 2000, we’ve had studies which suggest substantial differences between the beliefs of those who attend church regularly and those who do not. Like you, I think we need to go deeper to find out why people identify as Catholic even if they don’t attend church regularly or agree with the core teachings of the Catholic Church. I think it’s a missed opportunity.

      I don’t want to write off infrequent Mass attenders, but I do want to make the point that they tend to have different views from regular church goers and it would make more sense to ask people who are more committed/vested/involved in the Church what they think. Otherwise, it’s a bit like asking a hard core soccer fan what she thinks about the Super Bowl. Soccer and football tend to be two totally different sports and cultures… It’s not a tight analogy, but I hope it’s sufficient.

      I’m sorry, but I don’t completely understand your paragraph about Church leaders and marriage. I agree with you that for many, being Catholic is more of a family thing than a matter of education in the faith. That’s where I think we as the Church need to do a better job. With all the means at our disposal it’s hard to justify a lack of knowledge. We need to do a better job of teaching, communicating, and living the faith.

      Hope I’ve addressed some of your concerns.




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