Catholic voters in the United States would narrowly prefer former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump, the Pew Research Center reported on July 1. When asked who they would vote for or who they are leaning toward if the election were held today, 52 percent of Catholics picked Mr. Biden and 47 percent chose Mr. Trump. But the president performs better among white Catholics, with nearly six in 10, or 57 percent, saying they would vote for him, while 42 percent back Mr. Biden.
Among all U.S. adults, Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump, 54 percent to 44 percent.
52 percent of Catholics surveyed picked Mr. Biden and 47 percent chose Mr. Trump.
Gregory A. Smith, an associate director of research at Pew, told America that the findings are consistent with longer-term trends showing white Catholics becoming reliably G.O.P. voters.
“I’m aware that some readers might look at this poll and be surprised that most white Catholic voters, almost six in 10, say they would vote for Trump, or lean toward voting for Trump, if the election were held today,” he said. “That’s why I think it’s important to understand that if you look at the longer term trend in Catholic partisanship, the current result of this individual poll is very much in line with what you might expect given those longer term trends.”
He noted that the long-term data shows Catholics are sharply divided when it comes to politics.
"Catholics as a whole, as has long been the case, are closely divided” in the lead up to the 2020 election, he said.
Those divisions show themselves in how U.S. Catholics view the president’s job performance. According to the survey, 57 percent of U.S. Catholics “disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president” while 41 percent approve. Those numbers are similar to the views held by all U.S. adults, 59 percent of whom disapprove, while 39 percent approve.
But broken down between white and Hispanic Catholics, the numbers show a stark divide.
About three-quarters of Hispanic Catholics, 74 percent, disapprove of the president’s job performance.
About three-quarters of Hispanic Catholics, 74 percent, disapprove of the president’s job performance, a view shared by 45 percent of white Catholics.
Mr. Trump’s job performance numbers have fluctuated a bit over the first half of 2020, but the most recent survey finds job approval roughly equivalent to what it was in January, when 58 percent of U.S. adults, and 55 percent of U.S. Catholics, disapproved of the president’s job performance.
In April, the president’s approval rating among Catholic adults seemed to rebound a bit, with 52 percent saying they approved of his job performance, compared to 45 percent in January and 41 percent in June.
Mr. Smith said that any single poll offers only a snapshot and that “people who want to understand current trends and public opinion are well advised to consult a wide variety of sources.” He also expressed caution in trying to decipher how a single event might influence public opinion.
Mr. Trump’s use of force to clear protesters near the White House so he could be photographed holding a Bible in front of a historic D.C. church was condemned by some Catholic leaders, leading some observers to wonder how the episode might affect voters come November. But Mr. Smith cautioned against trying to read too much into any particular event and its impact on public opinion.
The survey was conducted between June 16 and June 22 among 4,708 adults.
“It's very difficult to know what impact any particular event might have on public opinion,” he said. “Even if you observe big changes in public opinion before and after some event, it's still hard to know how much of that change is attributable to the specific event.”
Even large events that do alter public opinion, such as the Sept. 11 attacks or the Gulf War, can have limited durability, he said. “The question becomes, how does that play out over time? Is it a longlasting change, or is it something that evaporates more or less quickly?”
The survey, conducted between June 16 and June 22 among 4,708 adults, also asked respondents if they viewed Mr. Trump as a great, good, average, poor or terrible president—and how they thought Mr. Biden would be viewed.
Among all U.S. adults, 34 percent said Mr. Trump was a great or good president, while 54 percent said he is poor or terrible. Just 11 percent said Mr. Trump was an average president. As for Mr. Biden, 26 percent said they believed he would be a great or good president, 32 percent said he would be average and 41 percent said he would be a poor or terrible president.
Those numbers were comparable when it came to the views of U.S. Catholics over all, but broken down between white and Hispanic Catholics, the numbers again differ sharply.
Among white Catholics, 47 percent said Mr. Trump is a great or good president, 12 percent called him average, and 41 percent said he was poor or terrible. When it comes to white Catholics and Mr. Biden, 21 percent said he would be a great or good president, 28 percent said he would be average, and 51 percent said he would be poor or terrible.
Hispanic Catholics, on the other hand, viewed Mr. Trump more negatively and Mr. Biden more positively, with 60 percent describing Mr. Trump as a poor or terrible president and 81 percent saying Mr. Biden would be great, good or average.