Why isn’t Santorum doing better among Catholics?

Analysts are crunching the numbers and looking at exit poll results, and have some conclusions:

It still is not clear whether Rick Santorum’s comments on religion in public life cost him a significant number of Roman Catholic votes in the Michigan and Arizona primaries.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that the comments did hurt him. Even Mr. Santorum understood that he might have made a mistake by saying last weekend that he wanted to “throw up” after reading John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on the separation of church and state. On Tuesday, Mr. Santorum said he regretted his choice of words.

In the Michigan primary, Mr. Santorum, who is Catholic, lost the Catholic vote to Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, 44 percent to 37 percent, according to exit polls. Because the two were virtually tied among Protestants, the Catholic vote effectively provided Mr. Romney with his margin of victory.

But the full story is not quite as simple as the basic timeline.

Mr. Santorum’s relative performance among Catholics was not so different in Michigan than it was in other early states, according to exit polls. His 37 percent of the Catholic vote was nearly identical to his 38 percent of the total vote. In Arizona, which also voted Tuesday, Mr. Santorum did better among Catholics (34 percent of the vote) than over all (27 percent).

That combination is similar to his relative performance among Catholics in the other early states with exit or entrance polls. In South Carolina, Florida and Nevada, his share among Catholics and his overall vote share were close enough to be within the polls’ margin of sampling error.

He received 17 percent of the total vote in South Carolina and 15 percent of the Catholic vote. In Florida, he received 13 percent over all and 10 percent of Catholics. In Nevada, he received 10 percent overall and 13 percent of the Catholic vote…

…So why hasn’t Mr. Santorum performed better among Catholics?

For one thing, his socially conservative message may play better with evangelical Protestants than any other group. For another, Catholics on average are more affluent than Protestants, and more affluent Republican primary voters have favored Mr. Romney over Mr. Santorum, independent of their religion.

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Comments

  1. This polling makes it sound too simplistic. Santorum just, IMHO, doesn’t have what it takes to be elected in the general or to actually be in office. His recent statements called Pres. Obama a snob for wanting everyone to go to college and things like that just turns him off.
    It’s great to have a Catholic running for office, but that alone isn’t enough.

  2. Fiergenholt says:

    Perhaps it is because Santorum’s vision of both American History and Church History is “revisionistic?”

    –He is now “back-pedaling” on the Kennedy speech to the Houston Ministerial Association. He has to; he is simply too young to have ever experienced the “anti-Catholic” turmoil that was still so much a part of the American cultural scene that then Senator Kennedy inherited. That historical context, however, is still very fresh in the minds of a lot of people who are now in their sixties or older. Those elderly folks are the ones who vote — whether Republican or Democrat — and his ignorance and insensitivity to their life experiences damaged him more than he is willing to admit.

    –While that remark about Kennedy did upset me, as a Church Historian of sorts, I was more upset at his remarks about the Protestant Reformation. His simplistic dismissal of that cosmic upheaval flies in the face of several hundred years of solid scholarship about its complex root causes and even more complex after-effects.

    Another point — someone in this blog somewhere noted that lay Catholics in North America are far better educated than lay Catholics from any other national culture anywhere else in the world. While that assertion is probably unprovable, what is true is that Santorum also made some incredibly stupid remarks about college education — forgetting that is what brought the “post-Ellis-Island” generations out of poverty and into the mainstream of American political and social life.

  3. Santrorum doesn’t do better with Catholics in general because he’s a dangerous neanderthal who sees women as second class citizens (though he elevates them on that wonderful pedestal of “motherhood”) and recklessly and senselessly mixes religion and politics while he panders to his conservative base. Also, while he strongly backs the Church’s teachings on personal morality, especially in the realm of sexuality (which seems to be the litmus test for conservative Catholics), he also pretty much chooses to ignore or downplay the teachings of the Church and the Bishops on many social justice issues. In other words, he’s a conservative, right wing Republican….why in the world would Catholic Democrats or Independents want to vote for him?

    [Scout...you're skating close to the edge here. Please avoid labels like "dangerous neanderthal," which do little to advance the discussion and say more about you than they do about the subject at hand. Thank you. Dcn. G.]

  4. Clare Krishan says:

    As a PA voting family (I’m the Catholic in the family but British, so I have to persuade my American non-Catholic spouse when its comes to voting our one-flesh-union POV) none of “his ignorance and insensitivity to … life experiences damaged him more than he is willing to admit” is new. The Lord has propelled him to where he is for some mysterious reason, but it may not be to get elected (he seems to harbor a vocation to preach rather than lead, a career in the Church Hierarchy may have been a better fit) but to encourage better preparedness of Catholics for prime-time. If Catholic natural law (pro-life beatitudes) is to mean anything it has to be highly selective and perfectionist – those who do not have the means to fulfill their ends will not.

  5. Sorry….but I do think he’s dangerous. His stated desire to combine religion and politics can lead to discrimination and bigotry and second-class citizenship for people who don’t fit his views of “true religion”. Neanderthal was probably too negative, though I was trying to indicate that his views often lack nuance or an educated base as he questions the science behind climate change, the need for college education, the role of women in society. I’m not sure what my comments say about me.

  6. A college graduate myself I understand perfectly what Santorum meant. My dad, who never went to college, was a craftsman and he was a happy man because he made his living doing something he loved. Secondly, I worked my way through school in a blue-collar job and there I learned what any H.S. teacher will admit-not every kid is college material.
    Most importantly Santorum was pointing out Obama’s perfidy. The President would be using tax dollars to curry favor with his natural constituencies-the YouTube slackers who are always looking for more free stuff and the liberal college professors who, surveys assert, vote 98% Democrat. Not to mention the waste-even Joe Biden recently acknowledged the correlation between government subsidies and the ever rising cost of college tuition..

  7. I’m a Pennsylvanian, and a Catholic who attends the Latin Mass at a Fraternity of St. Peter parish. I’m also 49, a husband, father, and have voted in EVERY SINGLE election in which I’ve been eligible since I was eighteen. I met Ronald Reagan twice, and have managed and worked on Republican campaigns for over thirty years.

    If anybody can say it, I can. I am the Republican Party. But with a nuance. I’ve left behind some of the scorched earth libertarianism of my youth, having since read a little Leo XIII, and today I agree with Rick Santorum’s political and religious perspective almost in total. If he’s still in the race in April, I will vote for him. If he wins the nomination, I will vote for him. However, if Mitt Romney wins the nomination, I will not only vote for him, but swallow hard and campaign for him as if he’s Ronald Reagan.

    Barack Obama must be defeated. Period. I can’t let my differences with Romney jeopardize his defeat, and I think many other Republicans feel t he same way. I believe Rick is electable, but I think it will be a much closer race than if Romney’s the nominee. I realize – though I wish we were – that we’re not a nation of traditional Roman Catholics. Rick’s personality also has an edge to it that Romney’s doesn’t. Even though he seems as if he’s been picked for the role of President by proverbial central casting, Romney still comes across on television as a nicer fellow than Rick.

    When it comes to Rick, I think many voters are going with “who can more easily win” than anything else.

    Barack Obama delenda est.

  8. Amen Clare

  9. I’m only disappointed that Santorum backed down on his Kennedy remarks. Indeed it WAS Kennedy who for the most part, made it acceptable and fashionable to take God from the public square. Again, I will give reference to the best article I’ve ever read on this topic by Coleen Campbell:

    http://www.colleen-campbell.com/articles/020107JFK.htm

    In addition, constitutional scholar extraordinare Mark Levin did an outstanding monolgue on the “legal non existance” of church and state including the 1947 decision by the anti-catholic bigot on the Supreme Court, history probably known to few Americans. It’s well worth the listen.

    click on feb 27th:

    http://www.marklevinshow.com/sectional.asp?id=32930#

    Bottom line, Santorum in not only correct on the “church and state issue”, he has been correct on everything he has said related to Catholicsm.

    He is also correct that Obama is a “college snob.” It’s no big secret why a Marxist (sorry, but that’s what he is, and the sooner the country excepts it the better we will all be), would want everyone to attend “propaganda higher education” when the truth is, many Americans simply are NOT college material. Consequently, everyone who doesn’t attend or finish (which is actually a very high percentage), is looked down upon by the “elite college educated society.”

    He is also 100% correct about birth control. While he forces it on no one, he has every right to speak truth of the consequences it has had in our society, in fact, quite compatible with Humane Vitae, which becomes more prophetic by the day. I also mentioned before on this blog that all Protestants Main line Demonimations were against birth control until 80 years ago. Unlike the immutable Catholic Theology, they all caved to the culture.

    I also agree that Santorum is following Divine Providence. He may and probably won’t win, but he there can be no doubt that he has the country (albeit mockingly for the most part), about many truths of Jesus Christ and the once greatly blessed country of America.

    It’s also no secret that we are on the brink of not only a potential nuclear war, but of an economic and social demise that will bring suffering unlike any American could have ever imagined experiencing as an American.

    God works in strange mysterious, but always loving (even if it doesn’t appear that way), ways. Like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who also tried to warn America of the perils of “forgetting God”, Santorum also preaches a similar message, albeit mostly to deaf ears, sadly many of them Catholic.

    In the eyes of God, Santorum IS a winner, big time, and there can be little doubt that God has possibly used him as another (albeit ignored and mocked), “modern day prophet” of sorts, living the philosophy of Mother Theresa that “We are not called to be successful, just faithful.”

  10. Sorry, but you don’t understand what he meant. President Obama was talking about education and training beyond high school, including trade school, apprenticeships, and college. The reason I know that’s what he meant is that that’s what he said. Explicitly. Clearly. In easy-to-understand English.

    Yeesh.

  11. When Mr. Santorum speaks as if he represents ALL Catholics and not just extreme conservative ones, then maybe he’ll get my vote. As a Catholic he scares me. It’s quite obvious, then, why mainstream Catholics are looking elsewhere. Tone it down, Rick, and realize that “catholic” means UNIVERSAL, NOT CONSERVATIVE. Come join the Catholic Church, Rick, not some small minority with huge pocketbooks and loud voices!

  12. Eric everything Santorum spoke/speaks on Catholicism to date has been 100% accurate with the the teachings of the Catholic Church, which are based on the full, unwatered down, teachings of Jesus Christ.

    If you read the article I linked to in my last post, Coleen Campbell nails it:

    “Perhaps the true lesson of Kennedy’s Houston speech is this: A commitment to Jesus Christ and His Church challenges Catholics to stand as a sign of contradiction in the world. We can accept that challenge or we can reject it, but we must not convince ourselves that we can have it both ways. We can’t. And that is good news for America and Europe, where the prophetic witness of courageous Catholics is needed now as never before. “

  13. Henry Karlson says:

    Klaire

    Everything? Not at all. He’s been off on many things. For example, he didn’t even know of the preferential option for the poor.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8sxwSYS6zE

  14. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    If Santorum is the nominee (which he won’t be), he’ll lose the Catholic vote massively. Remember, if he can’t win the Republican Catholic vote, how is he going to win the Democratic Catholic vote.
    My fear is that Rick Santorum will govern as told to by the Vatican. I know, its an old cabal, but isn’t that really what Rick Santorum means by insisting that his religious principles come first, that he doesn’t disagree with the Vatican, and that there isn’t a separation of church and state. The insistence of many within the orthodox Catholic political movement in the USA that Catholic politicians must blindly follow the Vatican on social and political policy does not diminish that perception.
    I suspect that most Catholics simply don’t want unelected Bishops having influence in public policy. Most Catholics openly defie the Vatican on birth control. A large number of Catholics (perhaps even a majority) oppose the church on Gay political rights.

  15. I think what bothers me the most about Santorum is exactly what bothers me the most about Obama: they come off as good two shoes moralists – constantly wagging the finger, telling someone something that they don’t know. I honestly don’t see any difference in tone between Obama and Santorum. No adult wants to be nagged to.

  16. [Comment deleted for childish name-calling. -- Ed.]

  17. naturgesetz says:

    I don’t think it is exactly governing as he is told by the Vatican. It’s indirect, not direct. He will govern on the basis of his understanding of the common good, which is what a principled statesman does. In his case, his understanding of the common good is based on and consistent with orthodox Catholicism.

  18. Santorum isn’t widely popular among Catholics because they are representative of the full spectrum of political beliefs in this country. Many are independents, and Santorum has no appeal for them. He’s the candidate of the ultra-religious right. Even there, many conservative Catholics realize he is badly out of step with the Magisterium on some key issues. His only natural constituency are the one or two issue hardcore social issues voters.

  19. You see through God’s eyes these days? Must be nice. If Santorum is truly a prophet, than Christians have greatly lowered the bar for their sources of revelation these days….and the market has responded.

  20. Okay, I’ll tell you why.
    When it comes to foreign war policy, I believe Ron Paul’s position to be more Catholic than Richard Santorum’s. Paul describes it as Aquina’s Just War Theory and I tend to agree.
    I’m so sick of war. Each time I see the ad for Wounded Warriors Project, I cry. We’ve been at war for many years, and what have we to show for it? Young people dead or maimed. Millions of dollars down the drain. And more foreign countries hating the U.S.
    Ron Paul is not a pacifist. He simply wants to follow the Constitution when it comes to war. War has to be declared by Congress, representing the people. Executive orders to fight a war, especially a pre-emptive war, like Bush and Obama did, is not the Catholic way to do it. Sadly, it appears like Santorum will do the same thing if he becomes President.
    I’ll vote for Santorum if he becomes the GOP nominee, but for now, I’m a Paulbot.

  21. Your “fear is that Rich Santorum will govern AS TOLD BY THE VATICAN” ??

    Are you for real? That’s the same kind of bunk that was hurled at Al Smith in 1928 and against Jack Kennedy in 1960 !! My immigrant grandparents had to endure the anti-Catholic slander hurled at Smith, and my parent’s generation experienced the same with JFK. Please, Never Again !!

  22. MhariDubh says:

    Do you really (I wish I could underline that about four times) want to use language that translates to “to be destroyed” in connection with the President’s name on a public blog? That seems ill-advised and not a little bit frightening.

    There are other options for “defeat”

    I cannot understand why people choose such violent/frightening/racist (not all three are evidenced here, I’m speaking in general) language in relation to President Obama and other Democrats. It does nothing to convince more moderate people to the “other side”

  23. MhariDubh says:

    Mr. Obama is not a college snob. In the speech that Santorum is referencing (the State of the Union), the President advocated for a requirement that students stay in school until they are 18; which as an educator I can get behind. He then went on to say he wanted people to go on to college OR trade school/other training (I’m paraphrasing). Why is this a bad thing? Why are you a snob if you want your children to go to college (or other higher education).

    Calling Mr. Obama a Marxist is a bunch of hooey – he doesn’t advocate against capitalism – his actions have encouraged it. Why do I waste my time – maybe I need to give up Deacon’s blog for Lent? Maybe just the comments?

  24. TradCathinPA says:

    Dear Deacon,
    I am a traditional Catholic and I attend the Tridentine Mass exclusively, wherever I can find it. While there is something unique to American Catholics, there is also something unique to modern post-Vatican II Catholics. Rick Santorum represents something that is in opposition to both of these ideals. He speaks of non-separation of Church and State, which is a fundamental Catholic principle but foreign completely to American Catholics. He speaks of not using birth control and the insanity of feminism which are deeply rooted in the lives of post-VII Catholics. He speaks of inequality financially and intellectually which is completely foreign to American Catholics and most post-VII Catholics. While Rick Santorum is certainly not a traditional Catholic in every aspect, he is as close to a traditional Catholic as most modern post-VII Catholics have ever met. And since modern Catholics share similar values with mainline Protestants, it is no wonder why Mr. Santorum is turning them off. Traditional Catholics share many values with evangelical Protestants and I suspect those traditional leaning Catholics are the ones voting for him in the election. IMO, the title “Catholic” doesn’t really mean much anymore. A huge portion of Catholics have little or no knowledge of the history of the Church or what it really means to be Catholic anyway. I live in PA. I don’t particularly like Mr. Santorum because he is a political panderer. But he is a man of strong faith and conviction. I plan on voting for Ron Paul in the primaries, but I would vote for Mr. Santorum in the general election. I will not under any circumstance vote for Mr. Romney. My salvation is far more important than what becomes of this nation, which will eventually fall.

    [Edited to remove gratuitous, bigoted comment about Mormons. -- Ed.]

  25. TradCathinPA says:

    Dear Deacon,
    My comment regarding Mormonism as a cult was neither gratuitous nor bigoted. It was relevant to this conversation. We should not cower from the truth and this is exactly why Catholicism is in the mess it is in. How many Catholics voted for Barack Obama who was reared and taught in Muslim schools? How many Catholics will vote for Mitt Romney who is a member of the cult of Mormonism?

    [That wasn't the part of your comment I found offensive. -- Dcn. G.]

  26. Fiergenholt says:

    TradCath. . .

    The topic of this blog-stream is “Why isn’t Santorum doing better among Catholics?”

    I did post three reasons I believe are quite valid yesterday at 6:24am (very early in this stream). I still think they are valid

    Jennifer’s comment “No one likes to be nagged to” is also quite valid. She posted it yesterday mid-afternoon.

    Your post of 7:54am today adds another insight that certainly is part of this complex issue. You called him a “political panderer.” That had not occurred to me — but I think you are quite correct.

    There are more — but the point I am trying to make is “Stay on Topic” and the regulars will welcome and respect you — regardless of whether you are a right or left wing Catholic — or even if you are not Catholic at all.

    Jump off topic or be wordy and rude and you may find yourself “shunned” and unable to participate. Sometimes Dcn Greg catches the problem first — just as often, the regulars give him a “heads-up” and he does the follow-up.

    One last point, I have been active on this BLOG for a few years and I have found Dcn Greg to be far more tolerant than I would be.

  27. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    It was wrong of it to be hurled at Al Smith or JFK.

    However, Rick Santorum

    1) Doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state
    2) Announces that he will govern according to his religious beliefs
    3) Follows the Vatican on every political issue of importance.

    Will Ratzinger and Burke have extrodinary influence in a Santorum White House? I think an argument can be made for that.

    Catholicism as well as other doctrinaire faiths (of which Mormonism is one) stresses obedience of its elected officials to church leaders. If Santorum disagreed with the Vatican on any significant issue, he’d be in the clear (he’s never done so). If Santorum supported the separation of religion from public policy making, he’d be in the clear. if the Catholic leadership was not attempting to unduly influence political officials by removing communion from them (or by other means), there would not be such a huge issue here.

    It IS possible for a politician to be unduly influenced by a foreign power. The influence of right wing forces in the Vatican (Burke, Benedict, etc.) is an issue for Santorum. And he does everything he possibly can to feed that perception.

    Its not as much of an issue with Romney, as he has shown an ability to publically disagree with his relgious leadership on major issues. He also believes in the separation of church and state.

  28. TradCathinPA says:

    Dear Deacon and Fiergenholt,
    I did stay on topic. I stated why I believe Mr. Santorum is losing among Catholics and winning among Evangelical Protestants. The fact that he is a political panderer has no implication regarding one’s religious beliefs. Even atheists can agree with that one. There is a huge problem with Catholics in this country. It is easy to see. Almost all of our “Catholic” leaders aren’t really Catholic at all. They have beliefs that are in direct opposition to Catholic dogma. Mr. Santorum, as a Catholic, believes and practices the dogma and doctrine of the Catholic church. I made this point because it is precisely what is turning off modern Catholic voters. They don’t like it one bit. My comments about Romney’s Mormonism and Obama’s Muslim upbringing are also relevant to this discussion because modern Catholics are not offended, it seems to me, by either of these facts. A traditional Catholic, if he or she was faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church before Vatican II (and Deacon please don’t edit that because it is relevant), would not ever vote for a member of a cult nor a Mohammedan. It wouldn’t even be a part of the discussion. I don’t think anything in my post was offensive at all, but apparently I have been censored for not being “charitable.”

    [Trad: It's Lent. Read my posting on charity from this morning, from the Holy Father. He says it far better than I ever could. It's something we all need to bear in mind. Dcn. G.]

  29. pagansister says:

    All this discussion about Santorum and his beliefs etc., is good, but IMO he hasn’t got a chance to be elected as the Republican candidate. I don’t think he could beat President Obama and I suspect others feel the same way. I think Romney will be their Republican candidate when all is said and done. However, I suppose Santorum could try again in 2016, if anyone remembers who he is.

  30. Santorum is not doing well among Catholics because, apparently, social restorationist Catholics are not as numerous in Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, and Iowa as some have suggested (I have always questioned these findings myself, as a political researcher).

    As a native Michigander, and Catholic, with many relatives voting in the recent primary (probably none of whom voted for Santorum), I think I can tell you why. First, Santorum rejects evolution. This is nowhere in Catholic doctrine; this is wholly of his own (and Newt’s) invention. Presumably, they appropriated it along with the other trappings of being conservative. Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Mormons are not Biblical literalists, and none reject evolution out of hand (although individual persons might, in that Americans appear to be uniquely suspicious of science for reasons that are not rooted in the religious doctrines they practice). My family is college-educated, and one of their problems with the Republican party as of late has been its approach to science and its rejection of evolution. Oddly, the Catholics in the race are merely mimicking the Baptists on this topic (needlessly), and alienating middle and upper class members of their own flock as a result. Similarly, Santorum has advocated dominionism on the campaign trail, a philosophy not found anywhere in Catholicism, and likely to be distasteful to most with even a passing interest in the environment. Hard core social conservatives may be willing to overlook this, but others will find it scary, and it is a very unusual view for any politician to articulate. It is usually only found among evangelical Christians– and not consistently there, either. (For those of you who don’t know what the philosophy is, essentially, it advocates a Biblical imperative to treat the environment and all of earth’s creatures as consumable resources to be used up at our discretion rather than conserved; once we’ve exhausted the planet’s resources, this will bring about the End of Times.)

    Santorum has specifically preached the desirability of income inequality. He has suggested initiating a war with Iran. He has professed hatred toward people who were gay (as opposed to hating the sin but loving the sinner). In general, he has shown a lack of compassion toward people who lead lifestyles with which he does not agree (women having jobs). While he has shown compassion for the poor, he doesn’t want to do anything to help them, other than to rail against big business. There are no specific policy proposals that would help the disadvantaged or their dependents. Rather, he suggests a reliance on charity and the community (while donating less to charity than any other presidential candidate including President Obama, but excluding Ron Paul, who will not release his tax returns). While he is critical of women in the workplace, he fails to acknowledge that for most families, two incomes are a must. (And, yes, contraception may help keep some families from slipping further into poverty, but Santorum shows no compassion here, either.)

    Santorum comes off as a smug, mean-spirited, thin-skinned, arrogant person– who is personally raking in big bucks trading off of his service to the people of Pennsylvania, but who has little to offer the rest of America but petty judgments of how we’re living our personal lives. It’s not a friendly view of Catholicism to present to the world. It is not warm and welcoming. If you practice this form of Catholicism, you may not see what a turn off it is to others. But, for non-Catholics, social justice Catholics, conservative Catholics who are women or who are in the sciences (or are otherwise college educated) or don’t dislike the poor or want to view others as objects of hatred, this is a pretty negative and vitriolic image of Catholicism to be trotting out to the world. It is embarrassing for many Catholics to be confronted with the image of Santorum (or, Gingrich, if we were actually being confronted with him).

    Most of us have already confronted plenty of bigotry in our lives because many non-Catholics assume that Catholics are pre-occupied with sex (abortion, contraception, homosexuality), and that this is most of what Catholicism is about. Catholic views on peace, poverty, immigration, and compassion more generally are often ignored, and Santorum is doing a good job of helping to ensure that things stay that way. Maybe some Catholics do only care about sex. This is a very small part of the Bible, and I would argue, far less important, than these other areas. Again, that a Catholic candidate would imply otherwise should be troubling to many Catholics. Clearly, it’s not troubling to all Catholics. That itself is troubling.

  31. Jack McKenna says:

    I vote Republican now, but I love JFK and would never vote for a candidate who made the despicable comments Santorum did. Romney is smarter and a much better candidate. I’ll be surprised if Santorum wins his home state of Pennysylvainia.

    [Commented has been edited. -- Ed.]

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