Washington, D.C. - Numbering more than 47 million potential voters, U.S. Catholics will likely be a popular target of both Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns this fall. A new study from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University shows that among this target demographic, Democrats may have an edge in November.
Polling conducted by CARA shows that fewer Catholics self-identify as Republicans in 2008 than in any previous election year since 2000. Only 21 percent are either strongly or weakly affiliated as a Republican in 2008. By comparison, 31 percent identified as Republican in 2004.
The polling data also indicates that Catholic attitudes on social, political and moral issues have shifted during the Bush administration, especially regarding two issues: the use of U.S. military force and taxes. Attitudes about immigration policy have also changed slightly and opinions regarding life and social justice issues have remained relatively stable.
“Overall, these shifting Catholic attitude trends, less support for the use of U.S. military force, more support for higher taxes for wealthy Americans, and increasing acceptance of immigration, may favor the Democrats and Obama,” said Mark Gray, director of CARA Catholic Polls.
In 2002, before the Iraq war, 63 percent of adult Catholics agreed “somewhat” or “strongly” that “The U.S. should be willing to use military force to overthrow governments that support terrorism against the U.S., even if it mean losing lives of U.S. service members.” In 2006, only 43 percent agreed with this statement – a shift of 20 percentage points.
An increasing number of Catholics support a tax increase for the wealthiest Americans; 65 percent agreed in 2006, up from 52 percent in 2002. Catholics have also become less likely to agree that the number of immigrants permitted to come to the United States should be decreased; 54 percent in 2006, down from 65 percent in 2002.
Among Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week, Republicans are more numerous than in the Catholic electorate at large. However, weekly attenders are still more likely to be Democrats than anything else. Thirty-four percent of weekly Mass attending Catholics are Democrats and an additional 19 percent are not affiliated with a party but lean toward the Democrats (53 percent identifying or leaning as Democrats). Twenty-eight percent of weekly attenders are Republicans and an additional 17 percent lean toward the Republicans (43 percent identifying or leaning as Republicans).
“Even with a clear edge in party identification, Obama and the Democrats will need to do well mobilizing Catholic Democrats to take advantage of this,” said Gray. “In the past two presidential elections the Republicans have been noted to be more effective at mobilizing voters using religion and religious organizations—often using the issue of abortion.”
For more information about this study or the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, visit: http://cara.georgetown.edu/pr061808.pdf.
About the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) is a nonprofit, independent and nonpartisan research institution at Georgetown University. CARA researchers conduct applied social scientific research related to the Catholic Church in the United States. CARA was created in 1964 and has been affiliated with Georgetown University since 1989. CARA’s national polls of adult Catholic have been conducted annually since 2000. To date, CARA has conducted CARA’s 19 national surveys of self-identified adult Catholics, including more than 21,000 respondents during the 2000 and 2008 period.
About Georgetown University
Georgetown University is the oldest and largest Catholic and Jesuit university in America, founded in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll. Georgetown today is a major student-centered, international, research university offering respected undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in Washington, DC, Doha, Qatar and around the world. For more information about Georgetown University, visit www.georgetown.edu.