Once again, research has shown that Catholics support same-sex marriage. This is entirely in keeping with Catholic teaching on social justice. Earlier, Pew research demonstrated this at a national level (and also showed that Catholics do not see “homosexuality” as immoral. See “Catholics Support Gay Marriage”). Now, research from New Jersey’ s Rutgers university finds the same thing. (Somebody should tell the bishops.)
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Despite opposition from the Catholic Church, New Jersey Catholics generally support legalizing gay marriage, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Among Catholics, 48 percent support gay marriage, while 40 percent oppose and 12 percent are undecided. Protestants hold the opposite view, with only 34 percent supporting and 55 percent opposing gay marriage; 11 percent are undecided. Jewish respondents support gay marriage, 56 percent to 40 percent, with 4 percent undecided, while those with no religion preference are the most supportive, at 85 percent to only 10 percent opposed (5 percent undecided).
The poll of 903 New Jersey adults was fielded November 6-10 and has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points. Half the respondents also had been interviewed before the Nov. 3 elections. The gay marriage questions were asked only after Election Day.
Religion and support for gay marriage in New Jersey
Catholics, 46 percent of all respondents, generally support same-sex marriage and 53 percent believe that if the Legislature approves a gay marriage bill, it should be accepted. They do not see the issue as one of the most important facing the state – 46 percent say the issue is “not at all important.”
“As with several social issues, many Catholics support a more liberal public policy than does the Church itself,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Given that Catholics comprise the largest religious group in the state, this makes a difference in overall support for gay marriage in New Jersey, especially since a majority of Protestants – many of whom are Evangelicals – oppose the bill.”
Strong opposition from Evangelicals drives much Protestant opposition to same-sex marriage – 67 percent of those who call themselves “born-again” or “Evangelical” Christians oppose gay marriage, while only 24 percent support it and 9 percent are undecided. Among non-Evangelical Protestants, 47 percent support gay marriage and 37 percent oppose it.
“The one religious group strongly opposed to gay marriage is Evangelical Christians, whether they consider themselves Protestant or Catholic,” said Redlawsk. “This group comprises 20 percent of respondents. The other 80 percent of respondents support gay marriage by margins of 12 to 40 points, depending on their religious preference.”
Attendance at religious services makes a difference
Poll results suggest that frequency of attendance at religious services is more important than a particular religious tradition in structuring attitudes towards gay marriage. Only 27 percent of those who attend services at least weekly support gay marriage, compared to 43 percent of those who attend monthly and 62 percent of those who seldom or never attend services. Overall, 29 percent of respondents say they attend services once a week or more often, 30 percent at least monthly, and 41 percent say they attend “seldom” or “never.” One-third of Catholics say they attend services at least weekly, and this group opposes gay marriage, 57 percent to 37 percent.
“The gay marriage issue is being framed as one of civil rights for gays and lesbians versus strong religious traditions favoring marriage between a man and a woman,” said Redlawsk. “Of the demographic differences between supporters and opponents, the clearest is based on religiosity – the frequency of attendance at services. While those who attend most often are most opposed, they represent a small share of all New Jersey residents. Every other group shows more support than opposition, regardless of the particular religion.”
Who cares about the issue?
Though Evangelical Christians strongly oppose gay marriage, they do not consider it an important issue in New Jersey, paralleling the view of other religious groups. Only 2 percent of Evangelicals call gay marriage the “most important” issue, while another 14 percent say it is “very important” and 34 percent “somewhat important.” The same is true of all other religious groups in the survey. “While the issue matters to a very small but passionate group on both sides, by far, most New Jerseyans of all stripes think there are more critical issues that need to be addressed,” Redlawsk said. “This suggests that regardless how a legislator votes, at the next election, this vote will be far less important to potential re-election than most other issues the Legislature will deal with.