Catholics beginning to move away from Democrats.
In a shift that may have consequences for the 2014 elections—and beyond—the Pew Religion and Public Life Project reported late last month that Catholics are continuing to trend toward the Republican Party. Fifty-three percent of white Catholics now identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, while only 39 percent of them identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party. This is a significant shift from 2008, when Pew found that 41 percent of white, Catholic registered voters identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party, and in 2011, when 49 percent did.Individual Catholics—including the clergy—are becoming more vocal in their concerns about the Democratic Party, which many perceive as being dismissive of Catholic concerns about life issues. Last year, Most Rev. Thomas Tobin, bishop of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, revealed that although he had been a registered Democrat since 1969, he decided to switch his voting registration to the Republican Party: “I just said I can’t be associated structurally with that group, in terms of abortion and NARAL and Planned Parenthood, and the same-sex marriage agenda and the cultural destruction I saw going on. I just couldn’t do it anymore…. The a-ha moment for me was the 2012 Democratic National Convention…. It was just awful.”It is likely that Catholics—especially those who attend weekly Mass—will play a more important role than ever in the upcoming elections. While Republicans lost among Catholics in 2008 by 13 points, the Democratic advantage became a seven-point Republican advantage by the end of 2011. Republicans now hold a significant lead among Catholics in general. And many of these Catholics are more motivated than ever to get out to the polls. According to the September 2014 Pew study, 79 percent of all Catholic respondents revealed that they will “definitely vote” in the upcoming elections. This is up 11 percentage points from September 2010. In fact, Catholics are more motivated to vote than any other religious group except white Evangelicals, who also indicate strong support for the Republican Party.