► Florida and national polling shows most want their politicians to be spiritual and have deep faith.
► Too many politicians use public displays of faith to boost their image, poll shows.
ST. LEO, FL – In addition to favorability of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church, the Saint Leo University Polling Institute also examined Americans’ thoughts on faith and politics.
Polling was conducted online February 28 through March 12, among 1,000 total respondents nationally. The resulting margin of error for the results is 3.0 percentage points in either direction. In Florida, where the Saint Leo University’s residential campus is located, 500 additional people were polled. The margin of error for the responses is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
As part of a Catholic Benedictine university, the polling institute at Saint Leo University in Florida regularly covers Americans’ attitudes concerning Pope Francis and the Catholic Church in America.
A majority of respondents are opposed to denying Communion to leading politicians who support legal access to abortion. Two-fifths, 54.9 percent, are opposed while 34 percent are in support of denying Communion to leading politicians who support legal access to abortion.
“The question of whether or not leading politicians who support legal access to abortion should be denied Communion is a hot topic in the Catholic Church in the U.S. today and has been at various points in the past,” said Dr. Marc Pugliese, associate professor of religion and theology and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “One would think that regardless of where people stand on this issue that people’s views would remain relatively consistent, but in this poll, we saw a 4.6 percent decrease since October in the percentage of respondents who are in favor of denying communion to leading politicians who support legal access to abortion [34 percent in March 2022 vs. 38.6 percent in October 2021]. There has also been a drop since October in the percentage of Catholics who are in favor of denying Communion to leading politicians who support legal access to abortion 44.4 percent now vs. 47.4 percent in October 2021].”
On the one hand, those who oppose denying Communion to politicians who support legal access to abortion may view the Eucharist as medicine for sinners and as a means of forgiveness, Pugliese said. “On the other hand, those who say Communion should be denied say that Communion signifies unity with the Catholic Church including the teachings on faith and morals, and the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a grave evil.”
The new Saint Leo University poll also shows moderate to strong agreement (strongly and somewhat) for three statements about faith in politics.
● Politicians are right to use faith when making policy – 44.2 percent nationally agree, 47 percent in Florida polling agree
● It is important to me that politicians are spiritual and have deep faith – 54.9 percent of those polled nationally agree, 57.2 percent of Florida poll respondents agree; and,
● Too many politicians use public displays of faith to gain votes and promote their image – 65.6 percent of those polled nationally agree, 67.8 percent in Florida polling agree.
“We also saw shifts over the past year in the percentages of agreement with the statements that politicians are right to use faith when making policy, that it is important that politicians are spiritual and have deep faith, and that too many politicians use public displays of faith to gain votes and promote their image,” Pugliese said. “This is interesting because, again, one would expect that people’s views on these matters would remain mostly consistent across time.
“There was a sharp drop both nationally and in Florida between February 2021 and March 2022 in the numbers who agree that politicians are right to use faith when making policy [Nationally: 53.1 percent in February, 44.4 percent in October 2021, and 44.2 percent in March 2022; In Florida: 55.4 percent in February 2021, 46.8 percent in October 2021, and 47 percent in March 2022). This sharp drop from one year ago may be related to how prominently President Joe Biden’s personal faith and spirituality were featured in the media leading up to the election, the optimism and hope on the heels of the inauguration and declines in approval ratings since then.”
Pugliese added that it may be surprising that among all respondents who identify with a religion, Catholics agree least with the statement that, “Politicians are right to use faith when making policy” (45.9 percent who self-identify as Catholic, 59.9 percent of those who self-identify as Christian, and 47.5 percent who self-identify as other). “However, this corresponds to findings that a majority of Catholics believe that the Church should stay out of politics,” Pugliese said.
About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted February 28 – March 12, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.
A statewide survey was also conducted during the same time period, among a base of 500 Florida respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.
About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering 62 degree programs to more than 15,800 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks and sisters, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 100,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.