Poll Shows Catholics Almost As Divided On Climate Change as the Rest of America

As Pope Francis prepares to release his encyclical, a poll shows Catholics' views on climate change are largely divided along partisan lines.

A poll shows that American Catholics' views on the environment are divided based on their partisan leanings, even with Pope Francis preparing an encyclical on climate change and the Catholic Church's continued focus on the environment.

The study by the Pew Research Center found that while 47 percent of U.S. Catholics attribute global warming to human activity, 6 in 10 Catholic Democrats believe that global warming is man-made while only roughly a quarter of Catholic Republicans agree.

The study was based on telephone interviews with 5,122 adults between May 5 and June 7 with a margin of error of 1.6 percentage points. For Catholics, the unweighted sample size had 1,016 people and a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

The percentage of Catholic Democrats who believe climate change is a very serious problem has increased from 44 percent in 2013 to 64 percent today. There has also an increase among Catholic Republicans, from 14 percent in 2013 to 24 percent today.

This largely falls in line with the U.S. public, where 64 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans believe climate change is caused by human activity.

Concern about climate change also appears to fall along ethnic lines, with 82 percent of Hispanic Catholics saying the earth is getting warmer, compared with 64 percent of white Catholics. Sixty percent of Hispanic Catholics believe climate change is being caused by human activity, versus 39 percent of white Catholics.

The poll shows that Catholics tend to be more concerned about climate change than Protestants, with 62 percent of Protestants saying global warming is occurring compared with 71 percent of Catholics. Only 37 percent of Protestants say climate change is caused by human activity, and just 25 percent of white evangelical protestants believe global warming is caused by humans.

All of this comes as an Italian magazine leaked a draft of Francis' encyclical on climate change, which says, among other things, that climate change is occurring, fossil fuels are contributing to it, and governments should take action. Francis' teachings are not that far off from his predecessors' views on climate change and fossil fuels.

But the poll shows that even the pope has to reconcile his church's teachings to baked-in political beliefs.