April 13, 2005


Democratic Strategists Issue Memo on Loss of Catholics (Culture of Life Foundation, April 12, 2005)

A memo authored by a prominent Democratic strategy organization calls the decline in support of white Catholics for Democrats "striking" and "a big part of the 2004 election story." One of the analysis' key findings is that Catholic voters are becoming more pro-life which the authors called "a factor in the recent losses and one of the blockages for Democrats, at least in the Midwest." The data also reveals that young Catholics are more pro-life than their parents and that bishops who speak out against pro-abortion politicians help bolster the pro-life vote.

The abortion issue is particularly potent for a group called "Democratic defectors" who either identified themselves as Democrats or voted for Bill Clinton in 1996 but voted for President Bush in the last election. Among this group, "26 percent believe that abortion should be illegal in all cases, nearly three times the number for all Catholic Democrats."

The memo was issued by Democracy Corps, a research and tactical advice organization founded by Democrat strategy virtuosos James Carville, Stanley Greenberg and Bob Shrum. Titled "Reclaiming the White Catholic Vote," it is based on data from a nationwide survey of more than a 1,000 white Catholic voters. The decline in the white Catholic vote has been steady over the last decade. Clinton won it by seven percentage points; Al Gore lost it by seven points; and Sen. John Kerry lost it by 14 points. The data provided in the report provides a fascinating window into the much discussed Catholic vote and makes it clear Democrats are losing ground because of their stance on a range of cultural issues.

It turns out that one of the most contentious and visible issues in the 2004 election, the denial of the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians, did not hurt the pro-life side as many said it would. The poll found that when white Catholics were asked whether or not they were more or less likely to vote for a Democrat that "is denied communion by the area's bishop for voting to support abortion rights" 49 percent said they were less likely while 33 percent said they were more likely.

The memo also made it clear that the abortion issue is not going away. "Although the pro-life position is strongest among seniors, Catholics current pro-life position does not appear likely to lessen with time. While middle-age Catholics lean toward keeping abortion legal, voters under 30 are more pro-life: 53 percent believe abortion should be illegal in most cases."

The blithe assumption that the Catholic Church in America is inevitably going to become more and more liberal appears quite false. We aren't Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 13, 2005 12:00 AM

While middle-age Catholics lean toward keeping abortion legal, voters under 30 are more pro-life: 53 percent believe abortion should be illegal in most cases."

The funny thing is that, for under-30 Catholics, there's been no "defection" to speak of: in our lifetimes, the GOP has always been a strong defender of the unborn and the "culture of life" in general. And we're more conservative than our parents were at this age.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 13, 2005 2:41 AM

It's a "defection" because Carville, Greenburg, and Shrum assume that Catholics, under laboratory conditions, will just automatically vote for the Democrat. The notion that individuals within an identified population have free will and don't march in lockstep is still something they haven't quite come to terms with (cf. Ruy Texeria, The Emerging Democratic Majority that isn't).

Posted by: Mike Morley at April 13, 2005 5:56 AM

The question isn't whether American Catholics will be either Republican or Cemocrats, but rather will they remain Catholics. As this letter to an editor illustrates:

Both of my parents were raised in fairly strict Roman Catholic households, but drifted away from the church in the 1960’s. For them, this was over the issue of contraception, and what they saw as the hypocrisy of Catholic clergy giving special dispensation for those from England’s upper classes to use contraception (based on their value to the church or how many children they had produced), while of course, the rest of the faithful flock had to follow church teachings.

The cynical political nature of the church over the Bernard Law affair should come as no surprise to students of Vatican history, but it is surely the contempt that this body has shown to its own followers which is most distressing. My mother [as a lapsed Catholic] is all too familiar with the ritual and mystery, but also genuine spirituality and religious feeling which is part of the Catholic faith and her comment on the church’s attitude to the sex abuse scandal was quite insightful. What she feels is so appalling about the abuse itself and the church’s dismissive attitude to it, is that what has been done to these children is not simply the horrible physical and sexual acts committed – abhorrent though they are. The worse aspect from a Catholic perspective, is that the spirituality of the affected children will probably have been harmed or even destroyed, after being so exploited by these paedophile priests. How can one think kindly of God, when one of his representatives on earth has been sodomizing you? People of a non religious disposition might take this concept in their stride but those who actually believe in God are more likely to understand how serious this all is. Not only have these Children lost their innocence on Earth, but after such abuse, they are more likely to turn away from the path, which in Catholic eyes at least, will allow them into heaven.

No doubt this point has been made before, but it is an important one for Catholics and by treating this matter with so little remorse or real compassion, the Vatican is only going to prove to its critics that it has totally lost its moral, religious and spiritual compass." The betrayal of the Church in this instance is indeed fathoms deep: the abuse was not just an attack on chidlren's psychological and physical health; it was an assault on their religious and spiritual life; and an attack on the church itself. We know how the Vatican really views this by the way Cardinal Law is now an esteemed part of the Roman establishment.

Now OJ may love hypocrisy, and would rather that the scandals remained secret; but us normal, decent folks (those who see religion as a source of grace and compassion rather than power and control, or a rational for revenge fantasies) are rather sickened by the sight of Cardinal Law enjoying a position of priviledge in the Vatican.

His cozy sinecure is a giant FU from the vatican to the laity (and to the children who were raped).

Posted by: daniel duffy at April 13, 2005 9:08 AM

Did the article say anything about under-30 something white Catholics leaving the Church?

(Like the way thewriter worked contraception into the letter -- missed out on the rest of the trifecta of abortion and women priests.)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 13, 2005 11:39 AM