Pew study shows Biden and Trump supporters deeply divided on life and family issues

2024 election Credit: Shutterstock

A new study examining some of the most contentious issues being considered by the electorate ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump has found that voters remain highly divided on hot-button issues such as abortion, gender, the role of the family in society, and immigration. 

Here are the topics covered in the June 6 Pew study, which polled some 8,000 registered voters, including top lines of what the researchers found as well as Catholic angles as they relate to several of the applicable topics.

Family

A relatively large minority of voters overall, 39%, think society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority, while 59% say society is just as well off if people have other priorities.

Trump supporters were roughly three times as likely as Biden supporters to say society is better if people prioritize marriage and family. Nearly half of Trump supporters overall — 56% of men and 37% of women — say it is bad for society that people are having fewer children.

Abortion

As in the past, relatively few Americans (25%) say abortion should be legal in all cases, while even fewer (8%) say it should be illegal in all cases. (Separate, previous polling by EWTN has found that even among Catholics, just 9% of U.S. Catholic voters hold the view that abortion should be fully illegal, despite the Church’s teaching that abortion is a grave evil and is never acceptable at any stage of pregnancy.)

About two-thirds of Americans do not take an absolutist view: 38% say it should be legal in most cases, and 28% say it should be illegal in most cases, the report continues. Support for legal abortion is higher among Black (73%) and Asian (76%) adults compared with white (60%) and Hispanic (59%) adults.

Broken down, about 9 in 10 Biden supporters (88%) say abortion should be legal in most (46%) or all (42%) cases. Just 11% of Biden supporters say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, has made the expansion of abortion a cornerstone of his presidency. 

Gender and sexuality

Nearly two-thirds of registered voters (65%) say a person’s gender is determined by “the sex assigned to them at birth,” or biological sex, up from 53% in 2017. About a third (34%) say gender can be different from their sex at birth. (The Catholic Church teaches that people are born as body-soul composites and that a person’s sex cannot be changed.)

Nine in 10 Trump supporters and about 4 in 10 Biden supporters say sex at birth determines if someone is a man or a woman, the report says. About 6 in 10 Biden supporters say a person’s gender can be different from their sex at birth, something only 9% of Trump supporters say. 

Biden supporters are more than three times as likely as Trump supporters to say they are comfortable with the use of “they/them” pronouns.

IVF and artificial birth control

Seventy-three percent of all voters — including majorities of Biden (83%) and Trump supporters (64%) — say access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a good thing. The Catholic Church opposes the use of IVF as “morally unacceptable,” though polling has suggested few U.S. Catholics view IVF as morally wrong.

Similarly, a majority of voters — 93% of Biden supporters and 66% of Trump supporters — say it is good for society that birth control is widely available. Despite the Church’s longtime opposition to artificial birth control, large majorities of Catholics report using condoms and hormonal birth control.

Religion in society

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A large majority of voters (71%) believe that religion should be “kept separate from government policies”; just 28% say government policies should support religious values and beliefs. Larger shares of Trump supporters than Biden supporters say religion — and particularly the Bible — should have influence on government policy.

Of Trump supporters, 36% say the Bible should have “a great deal” of influence on government policy, while 53% of Biden supporters say it should have no influence. Another 22% of Trump backers would like the federal government to declare Christianity the official religion of the U.S., while just 6% of Biden backers say this.

Fifty-nine percent of Trump supporters say that the federal government should not declare Christianity the official religion but it should promote Christian moral values — 34% of Biden supporters say the same.

A large share of voters (80%), including sizable majorities of both Biden and Trump supporters, say they are comfortable with someone they don’t know saying they will keep them in their prayers.

Criminal justice and gun control

A majority of voters overall (61%) say the criminal justice system is generally “not tough enough on criminals.” Just 13% say the system is too tough, while 25% say it treats criminals about right. 

Trump supporters (81%) are about twice as likely as Biden supporters (40%) to say the criminal justice system is not tough enough on criminals; older voters are also more likely to say this overall. 

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Roughly 8 in 10 Biden supporters (83%) say the increase in guns in the U.S. is at least somewhat bad for society and those voters prioritize gun control by wide margins. Relatively few Trump supporters (21%) view the growing number of guns negatively; more say it is a good thing for society (40%) or neither bad nor good (38%).

Artificial intelligence

There is “broad skepticism” about the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) in daily life, with roughly half of both Trump and Biden supporters saying the increased use of AI is “bad for society,” the report suggests. Pope Francis and the Vatican have weighed in repeatedly on the ethical use of artificial intelligence, with the pope set to attend the G7 summit this month to speak about the topic.

Race and diversity

Among registered voters, 8 in 10 Biden supporters say that white people benefit at least a fair amount from advantages in society that Black people do not have. By contrast, only 22% of Trump supporters say this.

Most Biden supporters (79%) say the historical practice of slavery in the U.S. continues to have at least a fair amount of impact. Among Trump supporters, a far smaller share (27%) say slavery’s legacy continues to affect Black people in the U.S.

Eighty-two percent of Biden voters say diversity strengthens society and 4% say it weakens it; this contrasts with about half (49%) of Trump voters who say diversity strengthens American society, while 19% say it weakens it. 

Immigration

Roughly 6 in 10 Trump supporters (63%) say there should be a national effort to deport undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., while just 11% of Biden supporters hold this view. 

By contrast, Biden supporters overwhelmingly (85%) say undocumented immigrants should be eligible to stay legally if certain requirements are met — including 56% who say this should include a path to applying for citizenship. About a third of Trump supporters (32%) say undocumented immigrants should be eligible for legal status, including just 15% saying there should be a way for them to apply for citizenship.

While a 59% majority of voters say that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. legally, this is a substantial drop compared with June 2020, when 74% of voters said that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay legally, the report says. 

Sixty-nine percent of Trump supporters under 50 say they’re comfortable hearing a language other than English in their community, with Trump supporters 50 and older slightly less so. Ninety-two percent of Biden supporters under 50 and 76% of those 50 and older express comfort with hearing languages other than English in public places.

Areas of agreement

Despite shining a light on myriad differences in opinion between Trump and Biden voters, the poll also found that both cohorts mostly support the discussion of “America’s historical successes, as well as its flaws.”

To that end, nearly identical shares of Biden (74%) and Trump supporters (71%) say it is extremely or very important to “have public discussions about the country’s historical successes and strengths,” while 78% of Biden supporters and 60% of Trump supporters say it is at least very important to “have public discussions about the country’s failures and flaws.”

In addition, voters, regardless of party affiliation, are very positive about more open discussions of mental health. More than 8 in 10 voters overall (87%) say that more people openly discussing mental health and well-being is good for society. This includes large majorities of both Biden (94%) and Trump supporters (79%).

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