Average Catholics, Average Voters

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?



  • irishsmile

    The so-called ‘Catholic vote’ is not the Catholic vote! Unfortunately we see more and more folks who identify themselves as Catholics who are not practicing Catholics. I have no problem with folks, fallen-away catholics, deciding not to practice Catholicism but I do have a problem with these same folks claiming to be Catholics when they are asked to identify their Faith! I pray that as we approach the election and the bishops speak even more forcefully & clearly about pro-life and true Catholicism, that the practicing Catholics wil be listening.

  • faithful democrat

    Beyond religion and ethnicity, there’s class. You seem to forget or even deny its existence (aside when you want to propagandize about the working poor and folks out-of-work waging class war against the rich). Working class Catholic folks, and those who still identify or sympathize with the working class, who used to be Democrats are still predominantly Democrats. A certain smaller percentage of those folks who have moved up the economic ladder have forgotten and forsaken their ethnic and class roots. I’d say they are less religious, too, but we don’t agree on what genuinely constitutes religiousness. Recent polls have also shown that the largely manufactured HHS controversy and the increased emphasis on anti-abortion activism have not really reconstituted “the Catholic vote” in any significant manner. Indeed, it still is pretty much where it was four years ago. So you and I can rant all we want, but it simply isn’t going to do much aside from inflating the egos of folks who like to see their names on the internet.

    • Everett

      “…largely manufactured HHS controversy”? Umm, what now? HHS is going to force all employers to pay for contraception, thus forcing them to cooperate in evil. How exactly is this manufactured controversy?

      • faithful democrat

        It may mean a lot to you, but it clearly doesn’t to most Catholic voters. Unless you can demonstrate a significant shift in the Catholic vote, I think it’s safe to say that the controversy is largely manufactured — no matter how genuinely important it is to you. If that’s the issue that you want to use to turn this upcoming election around, knock your socks off. But for my two cents, I’d say you’re only going to be preaching to the choir, meaning that you won’t garner many undecided votes and will lose quite a few.

        • irishsmile

          The door swings both ways in the Catholic church. A number of other churches accept contraception and abortion and homosexual marriage. I am the mother of a priest and we were all faithful Democrats until the Democratic party became the party of death and homosexual rights. We all made a decision to put our faith first… not a cheap political party.

        • Curious

          faithful democrat, You wrote, “for my two cents, I’d say you’re only going to be preaching to the choir…”. Well, when it comes right down to TRUTH, Everett is speaking to those that follow the first and greatest commandment, “Love God first with all of your heart, soul and mind.” Simply because you choose to follow the commandments of the democratic party, DOES NOT make it right. Eternal life with our Lord is much greater than life with the democratic party that you are so faithful to as you place God on the sidelines when you teach others to follow man and ignore God, His Word, and His Authority. Your post name fits you well. Following the “in crowd” over God may win you votes here on earth, but I doubt that turning from God to do so wins anyone eteral life in Heaven. Think about that and we will be praying for you and others that put party before God. God Bless

  • John Barnes

    Great piece, Joseph. When we’re not following the Kardashians or the umpteenth ESPN channel, we’re busy categorizing, classifying, and cordoning off imaginary blocks of voters, then attempting to predict how they’ll break for candidate so-and-so or some issue. Such a waste of time, yet we continue in spite of all the data telling us we’re wasting our time.

  • djohn

    What concerns me is that anyone who identifies as Catholic strongly identifies as a ethnic minority, with regards to other Catholics.

    A hundred and fifty years ago the Irish identified themselves as an ethnic minority, and as Catholics, because they had spent hundreds of years in religio-ethnic oppression. The same is not true for Hispanics. As Catholics race, and ethnicity should be virtually meaningless to us, we are not an ethnic religion but a universalist one. So long as it s practices do not conflict with the Law off God, God does not care about your culture, this is the reason that the Church has always been so tolerant of the cultures of those it seeks to convert.

    That people might choose ethnic loyalties over Religious duty, and yet really think they are loyal Catholics is deeply disturbing to me.



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