A new Quinnipiac University poll finds American support for marriage equality growing, especially among Catholics, just as Supreme Court oral arguments around the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 are about to be heard in late March. A separate Canadian survey shows similar results for Catholics in that nation.
Quinnipiac’s survey results indicate that Catholic support is driving the expansion of marriage rights nationwide. 54% of Catholics polled are in support of marriage equality and only 38% in oppose, improved from a 49%-43% split in December 2012. Researcher Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said:
“‘Catholic voters are leading American voters toward support for same-sex marriage…Among all voters, there is almost no gender gap, but a big age gap. Voters 18 to 34 years old support same sex marriage 62 – 30 percent; voters 35 to 54 years old are divided 48 – 45 percent and voters over 55 are opposed 50 – 39 percent.’”
This gap among Catholics mirrors the emerging demographic trends around marriage equality reported on during an analysis of 2012 election exit polling recently released. Three states, Maryland, Washington, and Maine approved marriage equality ballot measures, while Minnesotans defeated a constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman during the 2012 elections. The Washington Post reports that exit polling showed:
“…resistance to same-sex marriage is shrinking and mainly concentrated among certain segments of the population: older people, white evangelical Christians and non-college-educated whites…
“‘Significant opposition to the freedom to marry is increasingly isolated within narrow demographic groups while a much broader and more diverse majority are ready to let same-sex couples marry,’ wrote Joel Benenson, who led President Obama’s polling operation in 2008 and 2012, and Jan van Lohuizen, who did the same job for former president George W. Bush…
“White evangelical Christians opposed same-sex marriage by nearly 3 to 1. But every non-evangelical group — other white Protestants, white Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, African American non-evangelicals and Jewish voters — expressed support for such unions by double-digit margins.”
Similar polling reveals that Canadian Catholics support marriage equality as well. The Vancouver Sun reports on a recent University of Lethbridge poll:
“What about homosexuality? The Vatican continues to teach that homosexuality is a sinful ‘disorder.’
“But Canadian Catholics are increasingly accepting. Half approve of ‘same-sex couples marrying.’ An additional one in four Catholics acknowledge they disapprove of homosexual relationships, but “accept” them anyway…
“What of Europe, that other bastion of so-called ‘Western’ values? The rights of women and gays and individual freedom remain paramount throughout most of Europe, including in Italy, Spain and France, where the strong majority continue to say they are Catholic.”
Most interesting in much of the polling for Westernized Catholics is the strong religious identity expressed by those who overwhelmingly support LGBT equality. Previous distinctions on marriage equality between those considered ‘culturally’ Catholic who do not routinely attend Mass and those who attend Mass weekly are disappearing. The Quinnipiac University polling of US Catholics reported 90% of those surveyed consider their Catholic faith either fairly important, or for 57% very important, in their lives.
What do you think? Do an increasing number of Catholics support marriage equality in full harmony with their Catholic faith, not in spite of it, because of a growing understanding that LGBT rights are matters of justice and dignity? Or is it shifting demographics in age and ethnicity of the Church that merely mirror societal trends towards LGBT equality? Perhaps both? Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry