Gallup has done a poll and found—that “Catholics as a whole are almost precisely average in their vote choices”!
The Washington Post has picked up those Gallup results and breathlessly reports today that “the Catholic vote is the 2012 bellwether”—because, um . . . I guess because “in the last two presidential contests the Catholic vote has tracked almost exactly with the popular vote”!
Look, you can drill down in the results and arrive at some interesting sub-data. Among white Catholics, the general rule is: The more religious, the more Republican. Among Catholics overall, the general rule is: The more Hispanic, the more Democratic.
But here’s the point insufficiently appreciated by those who want to use poll data like Gallup’s to identify a distinct and atypical Catholic vote: Those same rules hold for lots of other groups. Among Protestants—among all of America’s voters, for that matter—the seriously religious are more Republican and the people who identify themselves as ethnic minorities are more Democratic. The drill-down doesn’t show a unique Catholic vote. It shows, in fact, the exact opposite: Even in the way its sub-groups work, Catholics are utterly typical of the general American vote.
I don’t think I much like that fact. It sure seems that “Catholic” ought to mean something in the political discourse of America. But abortion broke the historical ethnic identification of Catholics with the Democrats, and the Hispanic fury at the immigration fight has kept Catholics from statistically aligning with the Republicans, and what’s left?