The Catholic Vote?

The indefatigable Kathryn Lopez notes, below, the new Pew poll that shows President Obama in freefall among Catholic voters: going from 9 points ahead a month ago to 5 points behind today. As Ramesh Ponnuru dryly notes about the poll, “Obama could be starting to have a Catholic problem.”

Since I have often written that there is no discernable Catholic vote—that, statistically, Catholic voting patterns are lost in the general noise of American elections—I take the Pew results a little personally.

We’d need, for real analysis, a little more information than the first release from Pew gives. (I’d like to see, for example, the breakdown of likely voters, which is consistently more predictive.) But, at first glance, the poll is interesting. Abortion is low on the list of issues that voters find pressing, but among those who rank abortion as a top concern, Romney is at +2 (which is the advantage that pro-life candidates have consistently held over non-pro-life candidates for years among single-issue voters).

Romney is at only +1 on energy, which surprises me. I would have thought the Republicans had pushed through on this issue. Budget deficit = Romney +19, yes; health care = Obama + 15, no surprise.

Birth control breaks for Obama +19, which is exactly why his political advisors pushed the political strategy of transforming all abortion questions issue into birth-control questions. This, I believe, is what the HHS mandate was actually about: an entirely political decision to force Republicans to denounce birth control and then to mock them as all “weird.”

Even among Catholics, bans on birth control don’t poll well. For that matter, the handful of Catholics who would fit the White House’s caricature of weirdos weren’t ever going to vote Obama—which means that Pew’s claimed 14-point swing against Obama among Catholics can’t be coming from them. It has to be coming instead from the Catholics whose votes are, more usually, lost in the two-pole choice of a national presidential election.

At this point, we’d need some follow-up polling to find out why. Conversion on the birth-control issue? Unlikely. Reframing of the HHS mandate from a birth-control issue to a religious-freedom issue? Possible, even probable. Catholic’s tribal sense of being under attack? Hmmm . . .

The tribal Catholic vote is the one that I’ve often claimed has disappeared. If it’s back—and, I reiterate, we don’t know—what a change that would make: President Obama’s HHS mandate would have succeeded at achieving something at which the bishops failed. Something the Catholic schools could not achieve. Something an entire generation of Catholic politicians have assumed is impossible.

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5 thoughts on “The Catholic Vote?

  1. Laurence Tribe says:

    Does Obama’s moving the Holy- See’s U.S. embassy from its pre- sent location to next to the Italian Embassy demonstrate hostility to the church?

  2. Mike says:

    I’m curious why there’s no comment on CatholicVote.org about The U.S. Bishops’ Conference message about Federal Budget Choices? It seems very relevant to the whole concept of how Catholics should vote. And their opinion regarding contraception was widely used on this site.

    here’s their news release (from goo.gl/0nidB):

    Federal Budget Choices Must Protect Poor, Vulnerable People, Says U.S. Bishops’ Conference

    April 17, 2012
    Recent letters echo bishops’ consistent message that federal budget must form
    ‘circle of protection’ around ‘the least of these’
    WASHINGTON—As Congress began working on the FY 2013 budget and spending bills this week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote several letters that repeated and reinforced the bishops’ ongoing call to create a “circle of protection” around poor and vulnerable people and programs that meet their basic needs and protect their lives and dignity. The bishops’ message calls on Congress and the Administration to protect essential help for poor families and vulnerable children and to put the poor first in budget priorities. The bishops’ letters oppose measures that reduce resources for essential safety net programs.

    In the letters, Bishops Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairmen of the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, respectively, urged Congress to resist proposed cuts in hunger and nutrition programs at home and abroad saying that “a just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons.”

    On April 4, Bishop Blaire cautioned that “at a time when the need for assistance from [affordable housing] programs is growing, cutting funds for them could cause thousands of individuals and families to lose their housing and worsen the hardship of thousands more in need of affordable housing.” He also reminded Congress that the Catholic community is one of the largest private, nonprofit providers of affordable housing in the country and is deeply involved in meeting the health housing and nutrition needs of families across the nation.

    Bishops Blaire and Pates reaffirmed the “moral criteria to guide these difficult budget decisions” outlined in their March 6 budget letter:

    1.Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.

    2.A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.

    3.Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times…

    Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.

    In April 16 and April 17 letters to the House Agriculture Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee addressing cuts required by the budget resolution, Bishop Blaire said “The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.” Bishop Blaire also wrote that cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP- food stamps) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) will hurt hungry children, poor families, low-income workers and other vulnerable people. Additionally, he wrote that if cuts to the federal budget need to be made, savings should first be found in programs that target more affluent and powerful interests.

  3. bottoms up says:

    After his withdrawal from the primaries, a letter from Rick Santorum reads: “It truly frightens me to think what’ll happen if Mitt Romney is the nominee.” It goes on to repeat some of Santorum’s most frequent appraisals of Romney, calling him “a Massachusetts moderate” and states that “Republicans and conservatives will be crippled by a nominee who presents zero contrast with Barack Obama on the major issues of this election.” Amen.

    1. Mike says:

      It’s sad seeing moderate being used as a pejorative.

  4. halberst says:

    The contraception issue worked against Obama. But how about the immoral Republican budget cuts?

    The U.S. Bishops’ Conference had some very unrepublican thoughts on how government should work. For example:

    “Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.”

    ” if cuts to the federal budget need to be made, savings should first be found in programs that target more affluent and powerful interests.”

    “Bishop Blaire said “The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.””

    (from: http://goo.gl/0nidB)

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