Joe Biden after leaving prayer in the Catholic Church (Reuters)
Of the 45 American presidents, former President John F. Kennedy was the only one who belonged to the Catholic community, and he succeeded in reaching the White House in 1960 before his assassination in 1963.
If Democratic candidate Joe Biden wins the presidency, he will be the second Catholic to hold the office in the US’s more than 244-year history.
Although Biden is Catholic, most opinion polls do not indicate that he has the support of a majority of Catholic voters. A Catholic candidate for the presidency will not guarantee the support of Catholic voters.
And while opinion polls indicate a comfortable victory for Biden over Trump by 10 percentage points, the candidates’ percentage drops to 6 points among Catholic voters. Opinion polls suggest Biden would receive 51% of the vote for Catholics, while 44% would vote for Trump.
Opinion polls indicate a sharp split in the Catholic voice in the upcoming elections (Reuters)
The Catholic Voice split and swing
America’s Catholics make up nearly a fifth of the population, and they include among them a variety of political opinions even on issues in which the Catholic Church has taken a formal and clear position on them, such as the issue of the right to abortion or the issue of gay marriage.
Catholics belong to the centrist movement in general. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Institute during the years 2018 and 2019, 48% of Catholics described themselves as Republicans, and 45% of them described themselves as Democrats.
In the last presidential election 2016, Catholic voters swung between Republican and Democratic candidates, as 52% of Catholics supported Trump, while 44% voted for Hillary Clinton. In the 2008 elections, Catholics voted for Democratic President Barack Obama with 54%, and Republican John McCain received 45%.
The attitudes of white Catholics of European backgrounds differ greatly from Hispanic Catholics, with mainly Mexican backgrounds. 57% of white Catholics support the Republican Party, while 68% of Hispanic Catholics support the Democratic Party. Two-thirds of registered Catholic voters are whites, and the remaining third are Hispanic Catholics.
A Pew poll conducted last August of Catholic voters shows that President Trump’s views are divided according to their ethnic backgrounds. The poll indicated that 54% of white Catholics said they approve of Trump’s presidency performance, while 69% of Hispanic Catholics said they disagree with the way Trump handles his job. And 59% of registered white Catholic voters said they would vote for Trump, while 65% of Hispanic Catholics said they intend to vote for Biden.
Trump was supported by the majority of Evangelicals in the previous elections.
Trump’s Dilemma Between Evangelicals and Catholics
4 years ago, evangelicals gathered behind Donald Trump’s candidacy for the presidency, and Trump responded by pursuing policies that satisfy this important electoral bloc, especially about US relations with Israel.
During his campaign, Trump repeated what he said: “Evangelicals love me, and I love them.” In his official acceptance speech on his Republican National Convention card last September, Evangelicals were the only religious group that Trump thanked him, saying that their support was “a great reason to be here tonight.”
However, it was not evangelicals that brought Trump to victory in the general election, but Catholics, a group that Trump did not mention in his speeches until recently.
Despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, Trump reached the presidency largely because he won Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, states where Catholics far outnumber Evangelicals and Protestants.
Catholic voters, for example, are 25% of all Michigan voters, 20% of all Pennsylvania voters, and 24% of all Wisconsin voters. Trump won the three states in 2016 by a combined margin of just 80,000 votes.
Trump insisted on appointing Amy Barrett to the Supreme Court to win the (French) Catholic vote
Trump flirts with Catholics.
President Trump’s choice of religiously observant Catholic Judge Amy Connie Barrett was, in one sense, a vehicle for the Catholic voice.
Barrett was raised in a Catholic environment, attended private Catholic schools throughout her life, and then enrolled at Rhodes College in Tennessee. She obtained her law degree from the famous Catholic University of Notre Dame in Indiana in 1997.
Its positions on several important issues – especially about the death penalty, immigration, the rights to bear arms, and abortion – reflect hard-line positions consistent with its understanding of Catholic ideas, despite its claim that it takes its positions in conformity with the US Constitution.
“People were amazed at the great influence of white evangelicals in an election, but I think what they missed was the crucial role of the Catholic electorate,” Mark Rozelle, dean of the School of Government Studies at George Mason University, said in an interview on US National Radio.
“I grew up in a house located near a Catholic church in Queens, New York, and I saw how Catholics do good deeds for the whole area. They are wonderful people.” With these words, Trump spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast at the White House in front of a crowd of senior leaders of the American Catholic Church. The Catholic voice, which plays an important role in several swing states, is targeted.
Trump seeks to attract the Catholic voice from among the religious observers, including those who regularly pray in churches, while non-religious Catholics tend to favor the Democratic Party.
“It’s the religious practice, not the religious identity, that actually determines how Catholic voters vote,” Rozelle says. Among those Catholics who regularly attend religious rites, they tend to be more politically conservative and vote Republicans. Those who rarely attend religious rites tend to be much more democratic. “
Given this reality, the Trump campaign sees conservative Catholics, not white evangelicals, who hold the key to his re-election, at least in states that are fiercely contested on the electoral battlefield.
- Source: website