Voters cast ballots in Cleveland as early absentee voting began Oct. 12 ahead of the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election. CNS photo/Aaron Josefczyk, Reuters

Catholics voters lean heavily toward Clinton

By  Laurne Markoe, Religion News Service
  • November 2, 2016

WASHINGTON – Catholics, often important swing voters in U.S. elections, are throwing their weight behind Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The Catholic swing vote often determines who goes to the White House. This year, it favours Clinton over  Donald Trump 51 to 40 per cent, according to a recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.

 But delve deeper into the poll numbers and trends emerge that speak to the future of Catholic voting behaviour in the United States, where Catholics represent about 1 in 5 voters.

The Democrats are often a more comfortable home for so-called social-justice Catholics, who appreciate Pope Francis’ emphasis on the poor and welcoming the stranger. More traditional Catholics, particularly those who place greatest emphasis on the Church’s opposition to abortion, tend to vote Republican.

Catholics overall have gone with the winner in the presidential race consistently, said Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public  Religion Research Institute. “But that’s happened because of some interesting push and pull underneath the surface of that water between white and Latino Catholics. It’s not that Catholics overall are just evenly divided. But it’s these two subgroups that are pushing in opposite directions.”

While white Catholics favour Trump over Hillary Clinton 48 to 41 per cent, the opposite is true of non-white Catholics, the vast majority of whom are Latino. Non-white Catholics choose Clinton over Trump by a resounding 78 to 17 per cent.

Latino Catholics’ preference for Democrats is overwhelming this year due to how Trump has demeaned Latino immigrants and promised to build a wall on the Mexican border. He also said a respected judge can’t be impartial because he is Latino.

The influence of Latino Catholics is bound to grow. Two-thirds of Catholics under the age of 18 are Latino. “That’s the future of the Church,” said Stepher Schneck from the Catholic University of America. “The Hollywood image of American Catholicism as white ethnics — Irish, Italian, Polish and so on … is less and less an accurate one.”

 The Catholic vote remains important because it is concentrated in many critical states. In places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, white Catholics make up about 3 in 10 voters, and about a quarter of the electorate in Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, Michigan and Florida, Jones noted.

“This is a very important constituency as we’re looking down the homestretch of the election,” he said.

The survey also shows a wide gender gap between Catholic men and women on Trump, with 58 per cent of white Catholic men favouring Trump compared to 38 per cent of Catholic women.

thumbRNS-CATHOLIC-VOTE103116(RNS Photo courtesy of PRRI)

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