by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
(June 25, 2008) In spite of the fact that the Democratic party platform includes support for abortion, embryonic stem cell research and same-sex marriage – social positions that are opposed to Church teaching – a new poll by Georgetown University says Catholics are leaning toward the Democratic party in this year’s election.
Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) shows that fewer Catholics identify themselves as Republicans than in any year since 2000. Their polling found that only 21 percent of Catholics say they are strongly or weakly affiliated with the Republican party in 2008, compared to 31 percent in 2004.
Among all adult Catholics, 38 percent identify as a weak or strong Democrat, while 22 percent lean Democratic.
Even Catholics who attend Mass weekly say they are 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.
However, Democrats still have their work cut out for them and must mobilize to take advantage of their edge among Catholic voters, Gray said. “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.”
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.
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In “Voting Catholic” with Fr. Frank Pavone and Fr. Philip de Vous tell us how Catholics can fulfill their moral obligation to promote the common good when exercising their right to vote.