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ABC News "Nightline" Catholic Church Poll, February 2002 (ICPSR 3430)

Principal Investigator(s): ABC News


This special topic poll was undertaken to gauge respondents' reactions and feelings regarding the recent allegations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and cover-ups by the Catholic Church. The poll also attempted to assess how these allegations had influenced respondents' feelings about the Catholic Church in general. Respondents were asked if they had heard of the scandal surrounding Catholic priest John Geoghan, a Boston clergyman accused of molesting over 80 children, if the case had concerned them, how serious a problem they viewed sexual abuse of children by priests to be, and how often they thought that sexual abuse by priests occurred. Those queried were then asked if they thought the Catholic Church was doing enough to address the problem of sexual abuse by priests, if they thought the recent allegations had harmed the overall reputation of the Catholic Church, if they thought Catholic priests were more likely then other men to sexually abuse children, and if they believed that the policy of the Catholic Church prohibiting priests from marrying contributed to the problem. Finally, respondents were asked a series of questions designed to assess their opinions of the Catholic Church's past responses to allegations of sexual misconduct and their ideas on how the Church should respond in the future. They were asked whether they agreed with the church's response of transferring a priest who had been accused of sexual abuse to another parish, whether they believed that the church should inform parishioners and/or police if a parish priest was accused of sexually abusing a child, and whether the church should be required by law to inform police or parishioners. The results of the poll were announced on the ABC television program "Nightline." Background information on respondents includes age, gender, political party, education, religion, typical attendance of religious services, and ethnicity. Catholic respondents were also asked how much they trusted their own parish priest around children.

Series: ABC News/Washington Post Poll Series

Access Notes

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Dataset - Download All Files (0.146 MB)

Study Description


ABC News. ABC NEWS "NIGHTLINE" CATHOLIC CHURCH POLL, FEBRUARY 2002. ICPSR version. Horsham, PA: Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch [producer], 2002. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2002. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03430.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03430.v1

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Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    Catholic Church, Catholic priests, children, sexual abuse

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 2002-02

Date of Collection:   

  • 2002-02-19

Universe:    Persons aged 18 and over living in households with telephones in the contiguous 48 United States.

Data Type(s):    survey data

Data Collection Notes:

(1) The data are provided as an SPSS portable file. (2) Additional information about sampling, interviewing, weighting, and sampling error may be found in the codebook. (3) This collection has not been processed by ICPSR staff. ICPSR is distributing the data and documentation for this collection in essentially the same form in which they were received. When appropriate, documentation has been converted to Portable Document Format (PDF), data files have been converted to non-platform-specific formats, and variables have been recoded to ensure respondents' anonymity. (4) The codebook is provided by ICPSR as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided on the ICPSR Web site.


Sample:    Households were selected by random-digit dialing. Within households, the respondent selected was the adult living in the household who last had a birthday and who was at home at the time of interview.

Data Source:

telephone interviews

Restrictions: This data collection may not be used for any purpose other than statistical reporting and analysis. Use of these data to learn the identity of any person or establishment is prohibited.


Original ICPSR Release:   2002-06-27


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