The survey had interviewed about 3,000 people, including about 600 Catholics, Gray said. The margin of error for the Catholic population was plus or minus six percentage points.
“Any percentage here, for all Catholics, could be six points higher, it could be six points lower,” he explained. He criticized the institute’s report for not including either the margins of error or the numbers of Latino Catholics, which he said was “standard practice.”
Gray told CNA the figure for same-sex “marriage” support was “a little bit above” that reported in the 2010 General Social Survey, the “gold standard” of sociological research conducted every two years. In that survey, 20 percent of Catholics strongly agreed and 28 percent agreed “that homosexual couples should have the right to marry one another.”
The high figure from the Public Religion Research Institute also resulted from “kind of forcing people between two options,” civil marriage for same-sex couples or no recognition whatsoever, he said.
In Gray’s view, a three-option survey adding the choice of civil unions “gets at a greater level of detail” and probably provides “a more accurate estimation, because people have more choices to consider.”
The same report also contained results from a three-option poll. Forty-three percent of Catholics favor “allowing gay and lesbian people to marry” and 31 percent support “allowing them to form civil unions.” About 22 percent say there should be no legal recognition for a homosexual couple’s relationship. Latino Catholics were more likely than white Catholics to oppose any civil recognition, but they were also more likely to support same-sex “marriage.”