Washington D.C., Nov 5, 2012 / 16:43 pm
With polls still disagreeing on which presidential candidate holds the lead just one day before the election, political analysts believe Catholics will continue to be an influential indicator of what the general electorate will decide.
“The Catholic vote, like any number of votes, does have the potential to make an impact,” said Gregory Smith, a senior researcher who specializes in Catholic politics at the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.
While they do not vote as a unified group, Catholics are significant in elections because of their large numbers, making up approximately one in four U.S. voters, he said.
Final polling numbers show a neck-and-neck competition between President Barack Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney. Both Catholic voters and the general electorate are closely divided in their support of the candidates as the final days of the campaign come to a close.
On Nov. 4, just two days before the election, Pew released its final pre-election survey, showing Obama with a three-point lead over Romney among likely voters. Among Catholics, however, Romney held a two-point lead over the president.
Despite this discrepancy, Smith told CNA Nov. 5 that Catholics still resemble the general electorate more closely than most other religious groups, such as Jews and Evangelical Protestants. Both Catholics and Americans as a whole are very closely divided, he explained.
In such a close election, “small changes on the margins” can have “important consequences,” he added, noting that Catholics are one of several groups who could be influential in determining the outcome of the election.
With trends among religious voters remaining relatively similar to those in recent years, Smith said it is difficult to pinpoint what effect the contraception mandate and religious freedom issues are having on the Catholic vote this year.