The GOP lock on the Catholic vote?

The GOP lock on the Catholic vote?

Amazing! The mainstream media has discovered that the GOP and Catholic voters aren’t joined at the hip: “Catholics and GOP at odds on immigrants.”

However, I think the headline’s a little deceptive. What do they mean by “Catholics”? Certainly, the US bishops are at odds with the line being pushed by some Republicans, although my guess is that they’re more at home with, say, George W. Bush’s immigration views.

Even more, though, I think the AP’s Rachel Zoll misses the point that Catholic voters are not always in lockstep with the bishops’ political views. Recent polls I’ve seen (which I can’t find now just because I don’t have the time to find them again) show that in general the average Catholic voter is much more in favor of immigration restrictions than the bishops are. Ditto the Iraq war and the death penalty. There’s also a problem of mixing apples with oranges: how best to order immigration is a prudential decision; abortion is a non-negotiable fundamental issue.

What this article sounds like to me is wishful thinking on the part of liberals who want the Catholic vote to swing back toward supporting Democrats in time for the mid-term elections in November. I don’t see it happening any time soon, although if the GOP continues to move towards becoming Democrat-Lite—i.e. taking pro-lifers for granted, becoming big-government spenders, etc—then the distinctions will become less stark. Conservative Catholic voters will either find new parties to support or just stay home, while less conservative ones will gravitate back toward the Democrats.

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  • The problem with all of these polls is how they define Catholic. I wrote about that here when discussing an assertion in the Economist magazine that American Catholics have no influence since they have a heterogeneous mix of views that mirror the American population at large. If you include all those who self-identify as Catholic that is probably true. Many people view Catholicism as almost an ethnicity. However, if you look at those who regularly attend Mass on Sunday, the view becomes a bit more uniform. I am guessing if you looked a those who attend daily Mass it would become more homogenous still.