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Where Washington, D.C., NYC, and Philadelphia Catholics Differ—and Where They Agree
Charlotte Gendron, Daniel Cox, PhD,
09.10.2015

Pope Francis’ highly anticipated first visit to the U.S. later this month will include stops in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia, where he is widely expected to address a number of important issues, including poverty alleviation, climate change, and immigration.

So, where do Catholics in D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia stand on some of the salient policy issues? Using the American Values Atlas, we explore how Catholic residents in these cities compare on attitudes toward immigration, abortion, and same-sex marriage.

Catholics in these three cities have relatively similar attitudes toward immigration policy—majorities of Catholics in Washington, D.C. (59 percent), New York City (60 percent), and Philadelphia (65 percent) support a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally.

09-10-15 PRRI AVA Views of Immigrants by City

But despite their similar levels of support for a path to citizenship, Catholics in these three metro areas have markedly different views on immigrants’ impact on society. Seven in ten (70 percent) D.C. Catholics and over six in ten (61 percent) NYC Catholics say immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents. Philadelphia Catholics, however, are divided—only 45 percent say immigrants strengthen the country, and the same number (45 percent) says they burden the country because they take our jobs, housing, and healthcare. The more critical view of immigrants expressed by Philadelphia Catholics may partly be a reflection of the distinct ethnic profile of Catholics in this metro area. Philadelphia Catholics are overwhelmingly (82 percent) white, with just 12 percent identifying as Hispanic and three percent as black. For more on Catholics’ racial and ethnic make-up in D.C., NYC, and Philadelphia, click here.

09-10-15 PRRI Chart abortion SSM copy

The biggest difference among Catholics in these three cities lies in their views on abortion. Catholics in Washington, D.C. are notably more conservative on the issue of abortion than those in New York City and Philadelphia. While a majority of New York City (58 percent) and Philadelphia Catholics (55 percent) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, fewer than half (44 percent) of D.C. Catholics say the same. Similarly, a majority of Catholics in NYC (54 percent) and Philadelphia (57 percent) say at least some health care professionals in their community should provide legal abortions, compared to 40 percent of Catholics in Washington D.C.

There is much closer agreement on the issue of same-sex marriage. A majority of Catholics in each of the three metro areas favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. More than six in ten Catholics in New York City (66 percent) and Philadelphia (64 percent), and nearly six in ten (58 percent) D.C. Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally.

To explore the American Values Atlas’ metro-area feature on your own, click here. To see where Catholics stand on global warming, see our recent post on “Five Facts on Catholics and Climate Change.”

Metro areas are based on U.S. Census Bureau definitions of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). The metro areas may include both urban and non-urban populations. For instance, the Boston metro area encompasses the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The sample size for New York City is 933, for Philadelphia it is 245, and for Washington, D.C. it is 129.