Will Catholics decide this year’s election?


Ask ten people to name the most critical swing voting bloc in the 2012 presidential election and you’re likely to get at least five — and maybe ten — different answers.

But, new polling from Gallup suggests that it’s Catholics who could well be the best bellwether of whether President Obama or former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will be elected president this November.

Among Catholic registered voters, Obama and Romney each took 46 percent in 19 days worth of Gallup tracking polls between April 11 and April 30. The numbers among Catholics were a virtual mirror image of the head to head matchup among all registered voters where Obama took 46 percent to Romney’s 45 percent over that same time period. (Because of the large sample sizes — Gallup polled almost 2,000 Catholic registered voters over those 19 days — the numbers are even more reliable.)

It’s not just this presidential election where the Catholic vote serves as a leading indicator of the national vote.

In the five presidential races prior to this one, the candidate who carried the Catholic vote won four of them. The lone exception was in 2000 when then Vice President Al Gore won the Catholic vote by two points (and the popular vote by .5 percent) but lost the presidency to then Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

In fact, in the last two presidential contests the Catholic vote has tracked almost exactly with the popular vote. In 2008, President Obama carried Catholics by nine points and beat Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) by seven points nationally. Four years earlier, Bush won the Catholic vote by five points and beat Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) by three points nationwide.

(It’s not just presidential elections where Catholics have been a key swing bloc. In the 2006 midterms when Democrats made huge congressional gains, the party won Catholics by 11 points. In 2010, when Republicans re-took the House, Catholics voted for GOP candidates by 10 points.)

In each of the past five presidential elections, Catholics have comprised somewhere between 26 percent and 29 percent of the overall electorate. (Catholics were 27 percent of the electorate in both 2004 and 2008.)

As Gallup’s Frank Newport notes in a memo on the findings, Catholics have historically been a Democratic-leaning constituency — the party can thank John F. Kennedy for that one — but in recent decades have become more of a toss-up voting bloc.

Read more.


  1. “Will Catholics decide this year’s election?” I hope so. And I cannot see how any self respecting Catholic can vote for Obama after what he’s done this passed year. In fact we need to be the deciding vote rejecting Obama if we ever expect politicians to address our issues again. If we don’t, then they will know we are door mats.

  2. Don from NH says:

    83% of the Catholics have moved on in regards to the issue of contraception in the Catholic workplace. The only ones that are still living in the past are the Bishops and the Republicans.

    The president came up with a compromise and the Bishops were not ready for it. They figured they could keep this going until the election. (Has any one noticed that the Bishops become vocal every four years at Election Time???) So the only way they could keep this going through the election in hopes of swaying the Catholic electorate is for the Bishops to continue its opposition no matter what the administration does.

    In fact not all the Bishops are on Board either.

    And when the Bishops get all these Republicans elected they will all be shocked in disbelief when the republican budgets don’t reflect the needs of the poor.

    Cant have it both ways ……we’ll hear from you in four years. By for now.

  3. RomCath says:

    Enjoy the cafeteria.

  4. Kristen indallas says:

    83% seems awfully high. I for sure haven’t moved on, and I definately don’t consider that compromise to be anything but lip service. Frustration with Obama – check. But yeah the rallying behind the republican party that I felt a few months ago is definately waining. Probably because they have a front runner now who doesn’t seem much better. From his health care policies in MA to his donations to planned parenthood, and yeah that was all decades ago but the man is still currently invested (Big investments) in the several big pharma companies that include 9 different versions of birth controll including some “emergency contraceptives” aka abortifacients. So do I buy that a man who stands to make a ton of money off of the rules Obama just put in place is going to come through as superman. meh. So no, haven’t gotten over it, but not especially decided either. My plan is to do my best to find some decent representatives, and to try to get both camps (republican and democrat) to believe that their guy has to do something drastic to win the Catholic vote. (as in Romney ditching his abortion stocks and Obama calling for overhaul of the PPACA) (And in my head the tune of “Wouldn’t it be nice…”)

  5. still politically homeless says:

    I am living in a state in which one party controls governor’s office, senate, house, all U.S. senators, and majority of representatives. They can do as they please and I am not sure that is a good thing.

  6. Without opining if it is good or bad, it seems a large majority of Catholics do “enjoy the cafeteria”. And it is unlikely their number will decrease any time soon, if at all.

    The bishops are pretty much all alone, as they have been for years now on issues only they and a vocal minority find important.

  7. “83% of the Catholics have moved on in regards to the issue of contraception?”

    I think that’s a wish. No, not even close.

  8. No, that’s not my experience. There are religious Catholics and not religious, and the ones that vote on Church issues have not abandoned the Bishops. That’s a left wing wish not rooted in reality.

  9. Is it possible for you to cite a study that proves it is NOT close to 83%? And is it possible for DonfromNH to cite a study that it IS 83%?

    Perhaps both assertions are wishful thinking, though I sense that the 83% is closer to the truth.

  10. So we pretty much agree. I alluded to those that support the bishops. Our difference seems to be that I think the majority of Catholics do not vote based on Church issues. I’m assuming your take is the majority does.

  11. Mike Andrews says:

    It is stunning to witness some American Catholic discount and even abandon their and the Church’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience just to score points against their version of the Man a/k/a the Bishops. I not only don’t believe that the Bishops are out of touch; I wish they would do much more to resist the New Statism..

  12. I looked around for a specific statistic and couldn’t find one. It’s my judgement that of Catholics about 50% are generally religious (attend mass at least once a month). I have no idea where he got the 83% number from. Given that half the Catholic vote Republican, and further more that 50% attend mass, I would say that 83% support for the contraception issue (the issue being that government can impose its will on the Church) is way too high. There may be a good number of Catholics that use contraception, but I think a large number, possibly a solid majority, do not believe government should impose its will on religious institutions.

  13. naturgesetz says:

    “In fact, in the last two presidential contests the Catholic vote has tracked almost exactly with the popular vote.”

    In other words, the results would have been the same if the Catholics hadn’t voted.

    In other words, the Catholic vote won’t swing the election.

  14. Joe. Mc. Faul says:

    The study doesn’t say that issues important to Catholics are significant in this election. They aren’t. There’s only one significant issue: the economy. If the economy continues to improve, Obama will be re- elected

  15. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    But it does seem to conclude that Catholics are a good barometer of the election’s outcome.


  16. naturgesetz says:


  17. friscoeddie says:

    I’m in Ca too but I’m not homeless

  18. Kristen indallas says:

    um no… Just because the Catholic vote and the popular vote tend to track the same way doesn’t mean it would have happened without the Catholic vote because the popular vote INCLUDES Catholics at over 25%. To know for sure, you’d have to loook at the non-catholic vote (ie popular – catholic) for these trends too, though I suspect the allignment is because we are such a large percentage, not in spite of it.


  1. [...] out there, but the Catholic vote appears to be one of the most predictive. From the WaPo via Patheos: In the five presidential races prior to this one, the candidate who carried the Catholic vote won [...]

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