Church attendance is a major factor
New said that strong religious practice, more than religious self-identification, is associated with stronger views against abortion.
“One problem with most of the polls on Catholic attitudes toward abortion is that they do not look at Mass attendance,” he said. “In general, religion is not a strong predictor of public opinion toward abortion. However, consistent church attendance is correlated with greater pro-life sentiment. As such, Catholics who attend Mass weekly tend to be much more pro-life the Catholics who only attend Mass occasionally.”
A March survey from the Pew Research Center provides another perspective on public opinion. Among its respondents, 76% of Catholics said abortion should be legal in some cases but illegal in others, 10% said abortion should be illegal in all cases, and 13% said it should be legal in all cases.
The survey reported that 42% of Catholics said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 56% believed abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Among weekly Mass attendees, 68% said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 30% said it should be legal. About 24% of weekly Mass attendees said abortion should be illegal in all cases, compared to 10% of all U.S. Catholics and 8% of all U.S. adults.
At the same time, 44% of all U.S. Catholics said that the statement “human life begins at conception, so a fetus is a person with rights” describes their views “extremely/very well,” including 70% of Catholics who attend Mass weekly or more. About 38% of all surveyed U.S. adults shared this view, though 42% said that statement describes their views “not too well” or “not well at all.”
Strong majorities of U.S. adults and all U.S. Catholics told Pew they supported legal abortion if the life or health of a woman is threatened, though only about half of weekly Mass-goers did.
Critics of legal abortion tend to argue that health exceptions for abortion end up allowing abortion for any reason.
The Pew survey took place on March 7-13. It surveyed 10,441 U.S. adults and 2,224 Catholics. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points for responses from U.S. adults and plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for responses from Catholics.
Opinion on Roe v. Wade
In January 2022, a Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll survey reported that more than 60% of Americans disagree with the central holding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
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The survey reported that 44% said that the Supreme Court should leave abortion up to each individual state and 17% said the court should make abortion illegal.
About 42% of respondents said abortion should be limited at “the point at which a fetus can feel pain,” while 36% said abortion limits should apply at “the point at which a fetus can live outside the womb.”
About 63% opposed or strongly opposed new federal rules that allowed abortion-inducing prescription drugs to be sent through the mail rather than provided in-person through a certified health care provider.
More than half of respondents opposed taxpayer funding for abortion in the U.S. and a strong majority opposed taxpayer funding for abortions in other countries.
The Marist Poll surveyed 1,004 U.S. adults from Jan. 4-9. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
A Gallup survey released in early June said that only 39% of respondents identified as pro-life, the lowest since 1996, while 56% identified as pro-choice, the highest since 1995.