The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Catholic swingers

I’m referring, of course, to swing voters.

Much has been made of how Catholics are voting this year — and now Tim Rutten has offered some intriguing secular analysis in the Los Angeles Times:

Today, one in four Americans is a Roman Catholic. What makes all this particularly significant in this political year is that exit polls across the country show that Catholics are casting 25% of all the primary votes — mirroring, in other words, their percentage of the general population.


The importance of that turnout is amplified by the fact that Catholics now constitute the only true “swing vote” among discrete electoral groups followed by pollsters and social scientists. Though they no longer march in quite so precise a lock step, evangelicals still tend overwhelmingly to vote for the GOP candidate. African Americans and Latinos remain reliably Democratic, as do nine out of 10 Jews.

In the mechanism of American politics, Catholics are the pendulum — and they consistently swing toward the winner. In fact, Catholics have gone for the winner of the popular vote in nine consecutive presidential elections, which means that, since 1972, they’ve supported five Republican candidates and four Democratic ones.


Through Super Tuesday, Clinton appeared to have a 2-to-1 lock on the Catholic bloc. After Super Tuesday, the Catholic pendulum — like the campaign’s momentum — swung decisively toward Obama. The most recent polls say Catholic sympathies are too close to call in Texas and Ohio.

All this is likely to matter well after the Democratic convention because there’s every indication that the Catholic pendulum is likely to swing away from the Republicans in November. George W. Bush lost Catholics when he ran against Al Gore, but narrowly carried them against John Kerry, mainly on the strength of Karl Rove’s and Deal Hudson’s adroit use of the abortion and same-sex marriage issues in major Midwestern and mid-Atlantic states. (Hudson was then the White House’s liaison to conservative Catholics.) The conventional wisdom following that election was that Catholics had begun to split along the same lines as other Americans, with those who went to Mass weekly voting Republican, the same way Protestants who regularly attend services already do. In the 2006 midterms, however, Catholics — particularly in the industrialized Midwest — swung away from the GOP and gave the Democrats a 10-point margin.



Unlike evangelicals, Catholics have a long tradition of theologically nuanced social thought on which to draw: the church’s so-called social gospel. The Catholic bishops, for example, have been demanding national health insurance longer than Clinton has been alive, and the term “living wage” was introduced into the American conversation by Catholic commentators. Similarly, the church’s support for unions and opposition to restrictive immigration policies are well-articulated. More recently, both the Vatican and the American bishops have opposed capital punishment and preemptive warfare.

Now, the typical Catholic probably doesn’t know an encyclical from an insecticide, but this sort of social thinking and preoccupation with social solidarity and a “preferential option for the poor” are woven into the fabric of even casual parish life. It’s this background that has tended to make Catholics swing voters: uncomfortable with the sort of litmus-test left that once kept Pennsylvania’s pro-life Democratic governor, Bob Casey, from speaking at a national convention, as well as the talk-show right that assumes opposition to abortion means approving the war in Iraq.

For more, visit the LA Times link.

Comments read comments(2)
post a comment

posted March 1, 2008 at 11:44 pm

I discuss this issue of Catholics voting for Democrats because of the social issues on my blog. Unfortunately while Catholics and Democrats want many of the same things they don’t mean the same things to each group. Yes the Democrats are big union. The Church is pro-union but anyone who reads Catholic social teaching and encyclicals on unions realizes they are speaking two different languages. The Democratic/NEA idea of education is also contrary to Catholic teaching on the matter. If we really want to solve these problems we cannot turn them over to the Democrats simply because they say they want what we want. Healthcare is a similar matter. As long as the Democratic idea of healthcare includes abortion, embryonic stem cell research, birth control, euthanasia, Plan B abortion we cannot cooperate with this evil. Finally a Catholic hospital in London fired board members for not adhering to Catholic principles and teaching. Not to even mention the obvious issue with abortion. Please visit my blog and pass on what I’ve written. Perhaps someone with more talent and a bigger audience can write a better essay on the matter.

report abuse

John C. Hathaway

posted March 20, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Socialized health care always involves reduced access to specialists, which is a death knell to anyone with serious health issues.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

This blog is no longer active
This blog is no longer being actively updated. Please feel free to browse the archives or: Read our most popular inspiration blog See our most popular inspirational video Take our most popular quiz ...

posted 10:42:40pm Dec. 12, 2010 | read full post »

One day more
A reminder: "The Deacon's Bench" is closed! Please enjoy the archives! ...

posted 11:26:20pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Meet Montana's married priest
Earlier this week, I posted an item about Montana getting its first married priest. Now a local TV station has hopped on the bandwagon. Take a look, below. ...

posted 10:29:55pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Big day in the Big Easy: 10 new deacons
Deacon Mike Talbot has the scoop: 10 men today were ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. This group of men was formally selected on the day the evacuation of New Orleans began as Hurricane Katrina approached. The ...

posted 6:55:42pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Gaudete! And let's break out a carol or two...
"Gesu Bambino," anyone? This is one of my favorites, and nobody does it better than these gals: Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Staade. Enjoy. ...

posted 1:04:10pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.