During every U.S. presidential election cycle there is talk of the so-called "Catholic Vote."
Because there was a time when Catholics were a monolithic voting bloc determining the outcome of many elections.
In 1960, for instance, inner-city Catholics in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City unquestionably provided John F. Kennedy’s margin of victory in that closely contested race.
Kennedy received about 70% of the Italian vote, 66% of Polish, 68% of the Irish and 50% of the German Catholic vote.
JFK was the first man elected president who did not receive a majority of the Protestant vote. It's estimated that 4.5 million Protestant Democrats (mostly in the south), switched to the Republican nominee — Richard Nixon.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, the Catholic vote, however, began to splinter.
Issues like prayer in public schools, crime, welfare, Vietnam, busing, inner city riots, drove many working-class Catholic Democrats to look elsewhere for leadership that addressed their concerns.
And the man they turned to was Richard Nixon, who filled the void after the collapse of the Great Society and provided the voice for the silent majority.
In 1972, Nixon was the first Republican to carry a majority of the Catholic vote.
And these "Nixon Democrats" went on to support Ronald Reagan overwhelmingly in 1980 and 1984.
By the late 1990s, ethnic Catholics from Europe and the British Isles were aging, leaving the old neighborhoods for the new suburbs for retirement settlements in the South and the West.
And they were dying, too. In the last decade of the 20th century, members of the World War II generation were passing away at the rate of one thousand per day.
In addition, many of the Catholic children and grandchildren of the "greatest generation," no longer practiced or even respected the moral teachings of their church.
Many became "cafeteria Catholics"; keeping the Catholic doctrines they liked and rejecting those they found inconvenient.
A classic example of a "cafeteria Catholic" was the 2004 Democratic nominee for president, John F. Kerry.
Kerry had a 100% NARAL, abortion rights arating and he opposed any nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court who disagreed with the U.S. Suprme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113
As a result, a majority of practicing Catholics (65%) opposed Kerry, and the Catholic turnout for George W. Bush contributed to his margin of victory.
Committed Catholics in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin also turned out for Donald Trump in 2016, giving him his narrow victories in those states.
The question in 2020 is, will faithful Catholics stick with Trump?
A recently released EWTN News/Real Clear Opinion Research poll that took the political temperature of Catholics in February, should be studied very carefully by Trump’s campaign managers.
The poll indicated that only 47% of Catholics — practicing and non-practicing — approve of Trump’s job performance. Approximately 34% say they intend to vote for Trump in November and another 12% are leaning toward the president.
The most significant finding, however, concerns the 18% of Catholic true believers that "adhere more closely to church teachings on politics than other Catholics."
Half of these devout Catholics are Republicans and only 38% self-identify as Democrats.
Fifty-three percent describe themselves as conservatives as compared to 37% among other Catholics.
These Catholics "are more likely to vote in federal elections (75% compared to 55%). That voting actively leans right: 63% approve of Donald Trump, while only 43% of all Catholics say the same."
The poll also revealed that "59% said they are certain they will vote for Trump in 2020; another 8% say there is a good chance they will."
A vast majority of practicing Catholics live in the battleground states that will determine the winner of the 2020 election.
If Trump is to win, his campaign must turn out this small, but important, sub-set of voters in droves.
But with the economy collapsing due to the coronavirus pandemic, if Trump is blamed, these Catholic voters, who distain the abortion rights "cafeteria Catholic" Joe Biden, may do what they did in 2012: stay home.
Yes, in that election, a significant number of blue-collar Catholics in rust-belt states, stayed away from the polls because they didn’t like President Obama or his opponent Mitt Romney — who they perceived as an elitist incapable of understanding their financial, economic, and societal concerns.
While Catholics are no longer a homogeneous voting bloc, faithful ones still represent approximately 6% of the total popular vote. And how they decide to cast their ballots in November will determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
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