But More Say They Are Mending Fences With Family, Friends

SAINT LEO, FL – A combative election season has left some strife among friends and families, a new survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (http://polls.saintleo.edu) shows.

Respondents were asked if the contentious election cycle put them at odds with family or friends. Almost one-quarter, 23.8 percent, suggest they did find themselves in conflict with family/friends.

The national online poll of 1,001 adults was conducted from November 27 through November 30, 2016, and has a plus or minus 3.0 percent margin of error. A poll of 501 adults in Florida was taken at the same time and has a plus or minus 4.5 percent margin of error.

The political cycle overlapped this year with another set of topics that Saint Leo regularly explores. As a Catholic institution, Saint Leo University regularly polls on the impact of Pope Francis and his personal popularity. In the November poll, the pope continues to have a high favorability rating of 62.6 percent.

The post-election survey also asked about the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which was opened by Pope Francis in 2015, and which officially ended on November 20. Pope Francis called for continuing the year’s essence as a time of forgiveness and reconciliation. But those surveyed may not be ready to forgive.

Of those poll respondents who said they were estranged from friends and family because of the election, 40.6 percent say they have not forgiven those they are at odds with, 35.5 percent say they are working on forgiveness, 15.8 percent say they have forgiven some family and friends, and another 8.1 percent say they are unsure.

In Florida, more respondents say they have forgiven some folks—23.8 percent—and more say they are working on it at 28.1 percent. The poll shows 41.3 percent say they have not forgiven their families and friends, while 6.9 percent are unsure.

“The Jubilee Year of Mercy had the greatest impact on Catholics by far, since it was largely an intra-Catholic focus,” said Dr. Marc Pugliese, assistant professor of theology and religion at Saint Leo University. “I do not believe that it had a significant impact on the general population.

“Should we not at least have expected Catholics to be more forgiving with family and friends with whom they found themselves at odds during and after the election?” Pugliese asked. “Even within the Catholic Church, though, it seemed that the practical focuses during the Jubilee Year were on being beneficiaries of God’s mercy and on social justice issues than on our individual responsibility to forgive others in our personal relationships,” Pugliese said.

The Saint Leo poll also asked whether those who said that they were at odds with family and friends if they had reconciled. Nearly half, 49.0 percent, said they have mended fences while a large group are “working on it” or said “no,” they have not—36.1 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively. Another 4.2 percent were unsure.

Floridians were somewhat more forgiving with 57.5 percent of respondents saying they had reconciled with friends and family and 29.4 percent say they are “working on it.” Meanwhile, 8.5 percent say “no,” and 4.4 percent were unsure of their status.

The highest percentage—84.9—of people who say they remain at odds, labeled themselves as independent, while 32.3 percent are Democrats, and 17.8 percent Republicans.

“This may or may not apply to the “independents,” but at least with the Democrats and Republicans, it would seem natural that those whose party lost would be angrier and perhaps less willing to forgive than those whose party won,” Saint Leo’s Pugliese added.

Political Party vs. Religion

The Saint Leo University poll also asked about the role religious beliefs and political party preferences played in the November presidential election.

Those who said they voted in November were asked: If your faith and political party were in opposition, which would you give more weight to in an election choice?

Results show 31.2 percent of respondents say they lean mostly on religious beliefs while 32.6 percent say they lean more on their party preferences. Others, 28.5 percent, were more neutral or in the middle between faith and party.

One reason for the results could be that Americans are becoming less religious. But a decline in religious practice—including church or religious community attendance and participation—does not necessarily correspond to a decline in religious belief, Pugliese said.

“The ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ [SBNR] who are leaving institutional religion still have religious faith—albeit a more eclectic form.”

Those who worship and participate in institutional religious communities are held more “accountable” to the tenets of their faith while those who do not participate could be more prone to choosing political party over religious faith, Pugliese added.

Looking at the demographics of the respondents to the question, Saint Leo’s poll shows Republicans leaned more toward their religious beliefs than their political affiliation while Democrats favored their party more than their religious beliefs. “But the group that is most religious in their decision-making is African-Americans, an overwhelmingly Democratic group,” said Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, and a political scientist. “So that means that white Democrats don’t care very much about religious teaching when making political choices.”

Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications jo-ann.johnston@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).  Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications mary.mccoy02@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).

More About Our Research

METHODOLOGY: All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The national poll of 1,001 adults was conducted from November 27 through November 30, 2016, and has a plus or minus 3.0 percent margin of error. A sample of 501 adults in Florida were also surveyed from November 27 through November 30, 2016. The findings from the Florida survey have a plus or minus 4.5 percent margin of error.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University (www.saintleo.edu) is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever our students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. We welcome people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourage learners of all generations. We are committed to providing educational opportunities to our nation’s armed forces, our veterans, and their families. We are regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and we guide all our students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

We remain the faithful stewards of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where our founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 15,000 students, we have expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintain a physical presence in seven states. We provide highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 82,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.