A new survey from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) indicates that Catholics may lean towards voting for the Democratic candidate for president in the 2008 election.
The CARA polling shows that only 21 percent of all Catholics are either strongly or weakly affiliated with the Republican Party in 2008, compared to 31 percent in 2004. Fewer Catholics identify themselves as Republicans than in any year since 2000.
Among all adult Catholics, 38 percent identify as a weak or strong Democrat, while 22 percent lean Democratic.
Republicans are found to be more numerous among the general electorate Catholic population, with 28 percent identifying themselves as Republicans and 17 percent saying they lean Republican. However, Catholics who attend Mass weekly are still more likely to be Democrats, with 37 percent self-identifying with the party and another 18 percent saying they lean Democrat.
“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, the director of CARA Catholic polls.
Gray said that Democrats still must mobilize well to take advantage of their edge among Catholic voters. “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,” Gray said.
The CARA poll results suggest a shift in Catholics’ views on several major issues. In 2002, before the Iraq war, 63 percent of adult Catholics agreed “somewhat” or “strongly” with the statement 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.
Catholic support for a tax on the wealthiest Americans has increased from 52 percent in 2002 to 65 percent in 2006. Catholics are also less likely to agree that the number of immigrants permitted entry into the U.S. should be decreased, with agreement down from 65 percent in 2002 to 54 percent in 2006.
According to the study, pro-abortion sentiment has slightly increased among adult Catholics. In 2002, 55 percent somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement “A woman should have the right to choose to abort an unwanted pregnancy.” In 2006, the percentage in agreement increased to 58 percent.