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Washington Post-ABC News Poll: The Pope and the Catholic Church

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll is based on telephone interviews with 1,000 randomly selected adults nationwide, and was conducted Oct. 9-13, 2003.

Questions about the Catholic church are based on interviews with 1,281 respondents, including an oversample of 281 Catholics. The 'Catholics only' results are thus based on a total of 504 interviews. Results representing the general public in this section were adjusted to reflect the country's actual religious distribution.

The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points, and plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on Catholics. Sampling error is only one of many potential sources of error in this or any other public opinion poll. Interviewing was conducted by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.

*= less than 0.5 percent

1. For each item I name, please tell me if you personally find it morally acceptable or morally unacceptable.

10/13/03 - Summary table

                                             Acceptable     Unacceptable     No opinion
a. Birth control using the birth
   control pill or condoms            All        94               5               1
                                      Cath.      88              12               1     
b. Abortion when the mother's life 
   is not in danger                   All        39              58               3
                                      Cath.      30              66               4
c. Premarital sex between consenting 
   adults                             All        67              32               1
                                      Cath.      67              31               2
d. Homosexual relations between 
   consenting adults                  All        45              52               3
                                      Cath.      48              48               4

e. The death penalty                  All        68              28               4
                                      Cath.      62              34               4

2. On another subject, overall would you say you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Catholic Church?

              Favorable   Unfavorable   No opinion
10/13/03 All      48          44           8
         Cath.    80          17           3
12/15/02 All      40          52           8
         Cath.    69          30           2
6/17/02  All      45          47           9
         Cath.    69          28           3
6/9/02   All      47          45           7
         Cath.    70          28           2
3/28/02  All      55          34          11
         Cath.    73          24           3
2/20/02  All      63          27          11
         Cath.    88           9           4
8/30/99* All      68          19          13
*Wash Post/Kaiser/Harvard, asked "very/somewhat" follow

3. (ASKED OF CATHOLICS) In general, do you think the Roman Catholic Church is in touch with the views of Catholics in America today, or is it out of touch?

                       In touch     Out of touch     No opinion
10/13/03  Cath.           34            62                3
10/1/95   All             25            58               17
          Cath.           38            58                5
          Non-Cath.       21            56               23

4. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Pope John Paul the Second has handled his job as pope? Do you approve/disapprove strongly or somewhat?

                       -----Approve-----   ----Disapprove----   No
                       NET   Str.  Smwt.   NET   Smwt.   Str.  opin.
10/13/03 All           58     19    39     26     13      13    17
         Cath.         79     40    39     16      9       7     4
         Non-Cath.     52     13    38     28     14      14    20

Compare to: Do you approve or disapprove of the job Pope John Paul the Second is doing leading the Catholic church? Is that approve/disapprove strongly or approve/disapprove somewhat?

                       -----Approve-----   ----Disapprove----   No
                       NET   Str.  Smwt.   NET   Smwt.   Str.  opin.
10/1/95 All            59     21    38     21     14       7    20
        Cath.          82     44    38     15     12       3     3
        Non-Cath.      53     14    39     21     14       7    26

5. How would you rate the job John Paul the Second has done (READ ITEM) - excellent, good, not so good or poor?

10/13/03 - Summary Table*

                                             -----Exc/Good----   ---Not good/Poor---    No
                                             NET   Exc.   Good   NET   Not so   Poor   opin. 

a. Preserving the church's traditions  All   65     17     47    21      14       7     14 
                                       Cath. 88     35     54    10       7       3      1
b. Making Catholicism appealing to     
   people today                        All   44      4     39    39      30       9     18
                                       Cath. 62     13     48    32      26       6      6
c. Responding to the concerns of 
   women in the church                 All   34      4     29    46      32      15     20
                                       Cath. 53      9     44    43      32      11      4
d. Responding to the concerns of 
   young Catholics                     All   41      8     33    39      27      12     20
                                       Cath. 60     21     40    35      26       9      5
e. Making it attractive for people 
   to serve as priests                 All   38      5     33    45      30      15     17
                                       Cath. 53     12     40    41      30      11      6
f. Improving the Catholic Church's 
   relations with other religions      All   55     13     42    29      22       7     16
                                       Cath. 75     21     54    19      17       2      6
g. Encouraging democracy around the 
   world                               All   67     19     48    22      18       4     11
                                       Cath. 86     30     56    11       8       3      3

h. Encouraging human rights            All   72     25     47    17      13       4     11
                                       Cath. 89     34     55     9       9       1      2
i. Improving respect for the Roman 
   Catholic Church                     All   48      9     39    41      29      11     12
                                       Cath. 66     17     49    31      25       5      3

j. Setting a personal moral example    All   73     29     44    17      11       6     10
                                       Cath. 90     41     48     8       7       1      3
*Half sample asked items a-e, other half asked f-j.

6. (ASKED OF CATHOLICS) Overall, who do you think represents your views better when it comes to religious and moral issues: (Pope John Paul the Second) or (your local church officials)?

                      Local       Both      Neither    No
             Pope   officials    (vol.)     (vol.)    opin.
10/13/03      27       60           5          6        2

Compare to: (ASKED OF CATHOLICS) Overall, who do you think represents your views better when it comes to religious and moral issues: Pope John Paul or your local church officials?

                      Local       Both      Neither    No
             Pope   officials    (vol.)     (vol.)    opin.
10/1/95       25       62           6          6        1
8/8/93        35       51           7          5        2
8/23/87       40       50           3          5        3

7. (ASKED OF CATHOLICS) Do you think the next pope should (maintain the traditional policies of the Church), or should he (change Church policies to reflect the attitudes and lifestyles of Catholics today)?

             Maintain      Change        No
             policies     policies     opinion
10/13/03        33           64           3

8. (ASKED OF CATHOLICS) Would you personally prefer to have the next pope come from (a country in the developed world, especially Europe, where almost all previous popes have come from) or from (a country in the developing world, especially South America or Africa, where the church is growing the fastest)?

             Developed     Developing     No diff. (vol.)     No opinion
10/13/03         43            23                28                6

9. Do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Pope John Paul the Second?

                   Favorable     Unfavorable     No opinion
10/13/03 All           65             24              11
         Cath.         84             11               5
1/12/98                71             10              19
10/1/95 All            64             20              16
        Cath.          83             10               7
        Non-Cath.      58             23              19
8/8/93                 68             12              20
8/23/87 All            51              8              41
        Cath.          76              4              20
        Non-Cath.      41              8              51

10. Has John Paul the Second had an influence on you personally in terms of (READ ITEM), or not? (IF YES) Has it been a strong influence, or not strong?

10/13/03 - Summary Table

                                   -------------Yes-------------             No
                                   NET     Strong     Not strong     No     opin.
a. Your religious beliefs   All    16        10             6        82       1
                            Cath.  42        30            12        58       *
b. Your moral views         All    18        10             9        80       2
                            Cath.  39        27            13        60       1 
c. Your political opinions  All    10         4             6        88       2 
                            Cath.  21        11            10        78       1
d. Your personal behavior   All    13         8             5        85       2
                            Cath.  33        22            11        66       *

11. Do you think Pope John Paul the Second should (resign for health reasons) or do you think he should (remain in office until he dies)?

                 Resign     Remain in office     No opinion 
10/13/03 All       53              36                11
         Cath.     49              47                 5
6/8/02*  Cath.     40              55                 5 
5/29/02  Cath.     42              54                 4 
5/1/02   Cath.     36              59                 5 
*6/8/02 and previous: Gallup.

12. (ASKED OF CATHOLICS) Currently, Roman Catholic priests cannot get married. Do you favor or oppose that policy?

                       Favor     Oppose     No opinion
10/13/03 Cath.           30        67            2
10/1/95  Cath.           37        61            1
8/8/93   All             26        65            9
         Cath.           39        58            4
         Non-Cath.       22        67           11
8/23/87  All             28        56           16
         Cath.           45        49            6
         Non-Cath.       19        59           22
3/24/86  All             25        58           17
         Cath.           46        50            5

13. (ASKED OF CATHOLICS) Currently, women cannot become priests in the Roman Catholic Church. Do you favor or oppose that policy?

                   Favor     Oppose     No opin.
10/13/03 Cath.       32        64           4
3/28/02  All         28        64           8
         Cath.       35        61           4
10/1/95  Cath.       33        65           2
8/8/93   All         26        67           6
         Cath.       34        63           2
8/23/87  All         30        60          10
         Cath.       42        53           5
3/24/86  All         26        62          11
         Cath.       43        53           4

14. Do you approve or disapprove of the way the Catholic Church is handling the issue of sexual abuse of children by priests? Do you approve/disapprove strongly or somewhat?

               ---------Approve---------   --------Disapprove-------   No     
               NET   Strongly   Somewhat   NET   Strongly   Somewhat   op. 
10/13/03 All   17        4         13      77       62         15       6
         Cath. 27        8         19      70       53         17       3
12/15/02 All   20        7         12      76       58         18       4
         Cath. 27       16         11      69       51         18       4
6/23/02  All   23        8         15      66       46         21      11
         Cath. 32       12         20      61       44         17       7
6/9/02   All   22        8         15      73       53         20       5     
         Cath. 34       16         17      63       41         22       3     
4/30/02  All   25        7         17      59       41         18      16     
         Cath. 35       13         22      59       42         17       7     

15. Do you think the church can or cannot be trusted to handle this issue properly in the future?

                   Can be    Cannot be     No 
                   trusted    trusted     opin.
10/13/03 All          35         59          6 
         Cath.        55         41          4
12/15/02 All          42         54          4 
         Cath.        56         39          6
6/17/02  All          50         43          6 
         Cath.        67         29          4
4/21/02  All          40         52          8 
         Cath.        59         36          5

16. Do you think the pope has done enough to address the problem of sexual abuse of children and teenagers by priests, or should he have done more?

                 Done enough   Should have done more   No opin. 
10/13/03 All         11                  82               7 
         Cath.       22                  74               4 
5/1/02*              16                  70              14 
*CBS/NYT. 

© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company


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