National polls have shown for some time that, although Catholics are personally opposed to abortion, they believe it ought to be legal in nearly identical percentages to the rest of America. Moreover, as a survey by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found earlier this year, only 18% of Catholics “strongly” agree with the statement: “In deciding what is morally acceptable, I look to the church teachings and statements by the pope and bishops to form my conscience.”
There’s also a profound demographic shift occurring in this sector. Nearly one-third of all American Catholics now are Latinos, as are more than 50% of all Catholics under 40. They have broken overwhelmingly for Obama because of his stands on the economy and immigration. (Shades of the 1840s.)
What all this suggests is that, in this and coming election cycles, we may see a new model for the Catholic vote, one whose participation more closely resembles that of Jews, 75% of whom are overwhelmingly pro-Democratic, while a devout minority, the Orthodox, tends more strongly Republican. If you break the Catholic vote down in roughly the same pattern, you get something that looks like the current national spread. According to most reliable data, slightly less than one in four Catholics now assist at weekly Mass and are more open to GOP policies, while the overwhelming majority of their co-religionists have cast their lot with the Democrats’ domestic and foreign policies.