According to a poll released on Monday conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, American Catholics are almost equally divided in their support for President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney.
Titled "The 2012 American Values Survey: How Catholics and the Religiously Unaffiliated Will Shape the 2012 Election and Beyond," the report observed that 49 percent support President Obama and 47 percent support Romney.
It also found that "Hispanic Catholics are more likely than white Catholics to have a favorable opinion of President Barack Obama (70 percent vs. 48 percent), while white Catholics are more likely than Hispanic Catholics to have a favorable view of Governor Mitt Romney (54 percent vs. 27 percent)."
Jeff Field, director of Communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told The Christian Post that he felt the results did not properly distinguish former Catholics from practicing Catholics.
"Many people who have long since left the church still identify themselves as Catholics although they no longer practice," said Field.
"This muddies the water when they are lumped in with bona fide Catholics … Those who no longer practice, but still identify as Catholic tend to be more secular, thus their support for the Democratic candidate."
Field believed that this was not the first time that a survey on the views of Catholics had this issue, as he described to CP the "pollsters nightmare" of tracking political views of the "Catholic community."
"The PRRI study, as well as others addressing this issue show the fluidity that exists among Catholic voters: just last week in another poll, Romney was leading the president by a few points," said Field.
"Practicing Catholics voted for McCain in 2008, even though President Obama won the general Catholic vote; these same Catholics are identifying with Romney this election cycle."
In classifying Catholics, the PRRI study focused on issues of White Catholics versus the general Catholic population and Catholics who attended Mass frequently (once a week or more) versus Catholics who attended Mass less frequently (once a month or less).
"Catholics' voter preferences were also divided by frequency of church attendance. Catholic voters who attend church weekly or more supported Romney over Obama (59% vs. 37% respectively). Catholic voters who attend church once a month or less were a mirror image of Catholic voters who attend church more frequently; about 6-in-10 (59%) reported supporting Obama, while 35% said they supported Romney," reads the report.
The survey used for the report was based on 3,003 bilingual (Spanish and English) telephone interviews of American adults conducted between Sept. 13 and Sept. 30, 2012. The margin of error is +/‐ 2.0 percentage points for the general sample at the 95 percent confidence interval.
Another finding from the survey reported that Americans who are unaffiliated in their religious views or who are less religious are less likely to vote this election season.