America's first – and so far only – Roman Catholic president was a Democrat. But the party is facing a possible loss of Catholic voters that could hurt its chances in future elections, writes Patricia Miller in Salon
First, Catholics have never voted as a bloc. Those loyal to church doctrine can tend liberal on issues of helping the poor or opposing the death penalty. But they often are conservative on abortion and same-sex marriage.
In recent years, however, white Catholics are turning more to the GOP, Miller writes.
In the 2008 election, Barack Obama trailed Republican nominee John McCain by only five percentage points, but four years later dropped to 19 points behind Mitt Romney.
A Pew poll
last fall showed white Catholics favor the GOP over Democrats by a 53 percent to 39 percent margin. It's the largest point spread in the Pew poll's history.
White Catholics are even more Republican than the traditional "ultimate Republicans," Protestant Christians, Miller said.
Miller called it "ominous" for Democrats, saying that long-term loyalty to the GOP by Catholics is growing.
Steve Krueger of Catholic Democrats told Salon that conservative bishops have been hammering that "good" Catholics can't vote for Democrats since the George W. Bush administration. Abortion and same-sex marriage, favored by more Democrats, are the main arguments.
"The bishops have gone from pastoral advocates to partisan enforcers," Krueger said.
Some of the more liberal-leaning Catholics have left the faith, weakening the liberal influence even further.
More and more of those who remain are those who actively choose to embrace the church and its teachings," Stephen Schneck of Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies wrote on CNN's Belief Blog
The "contraceptive mandate" in the Affordable Care Act further hurt Democrats with Catholics, Miller writes. Between 2009 and 2014 the number of Catholics who viewed the Obama administration, and the Democratic Party, as "unfriendly to religion" jumped from 17 percent to 36 percent, Pew reported.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone
in January told Rep. Nancy Pelosi that no Catholic can dissent on abortion after she balked on answering a question on whether she believes life begins at 20 weeks after conception.
Catholic Republicans are just as unhappy as are Evangelical Republicans with the GOP for not being conservative enough.
Catholics remain in the House of Representatives, but their party allegiance is shifting. In 2009, 98 Catholics in the House were Democrats, and 37 were Republicans. Today, 69 are Republicans, 68 Democrats. It is the first time GOP Catholics have outnumbered Democrat Catholics.
More are coming from the South, where the states are far likelier to be dark red.
Nationwide, Democrats are making up for the loss of white Catholics with Hispanic Catholics, but Krueger, of Catholic Democrats, is still worried.
The shift in the Catholic vote should really be a wakeup call to the Democrats," he said.
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