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March 07, 2012 10:09 AM Santorum and the Catholic Vote, Revisited

By Ed Kilgore

I thought we were all straight on this, but there is was again: across Twitter, and at some MSM sites as well, there was amazement last night that Rick Santorum was losing Catholics in OH, and fresh speculation that his fairly recent dissing of JFK was losing him not only Catholics but a chance at the nomination.

So it’s worth saying again: in every state where there has been entry or exit polling, Santorum has “lost” the Catholic vote from the very beginning, and in fact, has performed more poorly among Catholics than among Protestants. The JFK thing may not have helped, but it was happening well before that.

In those same states, moreover, Mitt Romney has finished first among Catholics everywhere other than in SC, where Gingrich edged him out (in GA, for example, where Newt won big overall, Mitt beat him among Catholics 38/34, with Santorum taking 21%. Meanwhile, Newt won half the Protestant vote, with Santorum edging Mitt in that category).

Santorum’s voting base is white evangelical Protestants, a category that happens to overlap signicantly with three other demographics where he does well: “very conservative” voters, Tea Party supporters, and voters from rural and exurban areas. Romney does best among moderate and “somewhat conservative” voters, and urban/suburban voters, and best we can tell, Catholics voting in Republican primaries tend to be more urban and relatively moderate ideologically.

I hope no one will be surprised when the same pattern emerges next time we are staring at exit polls.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • martin on March 07, 2012 10:16 AM:

    Santorum losing the Catholic vote is a bit like Herman Cain losing the black vote. Assumptions based on stereotypes of voters as mindless packs.

    That said, I'm pretty sure the pope would lose the Catholic vote these days.

  • Lifelong Dem on March 07, 2012 10:23 AM:

    I hope no one will be surprised when the same pattern emerges next time we are staring at exit polls.

    They will. The current crop of political reporters reminds me of puppies; each day is a new adventure and yesterday never even happened.

  • stormskies on March 07, 2012 10:28 AM:

    They will. The current crop of political reporters reminds me of puppies; each day is a new adventure and yesterday never even happened.

    ************

    Which is why they need to be trained to go outside and grow up ........

  • Ron Byers on March 07, 2012 10:36 AM:

    Watch tonight as Chris Matthews spews the Kennedy explaination for Santorium losing Catholics. Of course, Matthews has a book out on Kennedy. I wonder if book sales have anything to do with his "insight."

    Lifelong Dem is right. Our current political reporters possess a herd mentality that none of them can shake.

  • rea on March 07, 2012 10:52 AM:

    I'm pretty sure the pope would lose the Catholic vote these days.

    Which is exactly Santorum's problem. His positions track the positions of the church heirarchy, but the mass of Catholics reject those positions

  • DAY on March 07, 2012 11:15 AM:

    It seems that the majority of today's Catholics no longer celebrate Mass in Latin, and do not burn witches. . .

  • liam foote on March 07, 2012 11:20 AM:

    I concur with Martin, above. I am Catholic and nearly every member of my faith I have ever known would be unlikely to support a nonentity like Rick Santorum. To assume otherwise is just as wrong as thinking all Hispanics would back a ticket including Sen. Rubio.

    And, yes, the JFK nonsense meant a lot to countless Catholics.

  • Mimikatz on March 07, 2012 11:26 AM:

    Catholics are represented in the media by people like Bill Donohue and the Bishops, then people like Chris Matthews and EJ Dionne. But this isn't who most Catholics are any more than AIPAC or Hassidim are representative of most Jews. This has led to a lot of misconceptions, as it were.

    These days Catholics, like Jews, are largely culturally identified with the religion they were raised in, and if they are religious, it is in a personal way that isn't identified with the doctrine that comes from the old men in Rome. Sure there are conservative Catholics who are strident and well organized, Opus Dei and the Bishops and all that, but this isn't who Catholics as an ethnic group are, Catholics have always been largely from more recent immigrant and urban populations, and are more cosmopolitan than the rural, exurban and Southern evangelicals.

    It really reveals how narrow and insular most pundits are. They really ought to get out more and talk to more ordinary people before they pontificate, especially on all religious groups.

  • Comrade Carter on March 07, 2012 11:39 AM:

    I am a Catholic, an atheist Catholic but a Catholic nonetheless.

    Rick Santorum is with the Church on SOME things, and he's completely against the Church on other things... Like their social doctrine. Why that isn't a matter for the media is incomprehensible.

    The Church LOVES them some birth control and abortion when Rick Santorum is talking, but the masses from the Church find the loopy.

    And, the mass of Catholics will vote Democratic, as they usually do.

  • Kathryn on March 07, 2012 11:46 AM:

    I agree with Mimikatz, consider myself culturally Catholic, urban and severely turned off by the zealot Santorum, he is more like an evangelical on my opinion.

  • Sgt, Gym Bunny on March 07, 2012 11:47 AM:

    @ martin on March 07, 2012 10:16 AM:

    Santorum losing the Catholic vote is a bit like Herman Cain losing the black vote. Assumptions based on stereotypes of voters as mindless packs.

    Yep, that was my first thought, too..

  • Mitch on March 07, 2012 11:54 AM:

    Many Conservatives seem obsessed with defining individuals according to groups. Liberals are all communist hippies. Black people are all welfare queens and/or criminals. Christians think/behave a certain way. Europeans are effete fops. Union members are lazy and greedy. Atheists are immoral and licentious. The list goes on and on.

    It reminds me of how scholars in the past used to say things like, "The Irish are cursed with drunkeness" or "The Jew is naturally greedy."

    It's crap. And it drives me insane that people still think like that.

    People are more than the groups they happen to belong to, and many of the evils of history were caused by those who are obsessed with groups, both real and imaginary, instead of individuals.

    Assuming that all Catholics are going to vote for Frothy Mix is as foolish as assuming that everyone from the South is a raging redneck theocrat (I am from Kentucky) or that everyone fron NYC is a loudmouth a$$ (only most of them -just kidding).

  • Fess on March 07, 2012 12:03 PM:

    When mainstream Catholics get to the stage of paying more attention, they will run across Santorum's relationship with Opus Dei. There is no way Opus Dei reads as anything but crackpot cult, with the added insult of being grafted onto the Catholic Church. Devout is one thing, going back to the middle ages is another. Remember Mrs. Santorum's thing about not feeling rich the other day? Very Opus Dei. Here's an article about their home church, and after that, just google Opus Dei. Creepy.

    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/101420/santorums-church-opus-dei

  • Anonymous on March 07, 2012 12:22 PM:

    "Lifelong Dem is right. Our current political reporters possess a herd mentality that none of them can shake."

    i don't blame the reporters. i blame the editors, who too often lack imagination and perspective and who are more concerned about watching their bureaucratic backsides than breaking real news.

    i wonder whether some of the attraction to santorum among the protestant right might have something to do romney's mormonism. perhaps it's more of an issue for them than it is for catholics.

  • joanneinDenver on March 07, 2012 12:58 PM:

    I am encouraged at the "independence" of the catholic vote. The next few weeks will see important events that may or may not redefine the so-called catholic vote.

    1) In many states, mine included, there are versions of the "Blout" amendment being introduced in the state legislatures. Catholic voters are being urged to contact their state representatives and senators to vote yes on these bills.
    2) In Colorado, there will be a public demonstration on March 12th in favor of this legislation.
    3) I have read online or else heard on talk radio that a national demonstration is being planned at federal buildings by catholics to protest the "birth control mandate." This is supposed to be scheduled for March 23rd.
    4) The criminal trial for those accused of covering up child abuse in the catholic
    archdiocese is scheduled to begin in Philadelphia on March 26th.

  • cmdicely on March 07, 2012 2:36 PM:

    His positions track the positions of the church heirarchy

    No, his positions on same-sex marriage, abortion, and contraception roughly track those of the Catholic heirarchy.

    On other issues, well not so much:

    On labor: Santorum recently flip-flopped to support national union-busting legislation that he had previously opposed, whereas the position of the Church heirarchy is firmly in support of labor unions as an essential tool for social justice.

    On the environment: Santorum has called the idea that anthropogenic climate change exists "patently absurd" and "junk science". The US bishops, on the other hand, say there is "a particular and pressing responsibility to examine and act on the growing challenge of global climate change and its implications for God's creation and for the poor and vulnerable."

    One could go on for quite a while in this vein; outside of a narrow range of marriage, sex, and reproductive issues where the Catholic heirarchy happens to be in line with the political Right generally (and where the heirarcy is far to the right of the Catholic laity, at least in the US), Santorum's political positions diverge from those of the Catholic heirarchy.

  • J .M. on March 07, 2012 6:19 PM:

    It is bittersweet that Romneycare that has spawned Obama care gives us a glimpse of what type of tree we are dealing with , in Romney - to warn us off !

    Too bad Catholics do not recognise this and is voting for him , thinking that may be that make them 'cool' !

    It might take the Obama supporters in south, to high light these things better !

    If it was in the reverse and Santorum was the Mormon candidate and Romney the Catholic candidate , how many Mormons would have voted for Romney !

    We Catholics or Christians for that matter need to care more about such matters too , even if our Church let us be free to decide in such matters ; but if we take same for granted, the overcontrol agenda in these systems may encoreach on us sooner than later, as we are already seeing !