Obama Winning the Catholic Vote
Republican Outreach to Catholics Falls Flat
Surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press show that Catholics are saying the support Barack Obama over John McCain by a margin of 54% to 34% - a twenty point lead. The survey was taken October 23-26. This is a remarkable advance from the September 9=14 survey which had the Catholic vote as 45% Obama, 44% McCain. All of you who have volunteered with your parish or diocese Catholics for Obama organization have done great work, producing these stunning results.
Even among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, the support for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has grown, taking him from a 13-percentage-point deficit in late September to an 8-point lead in late October.
The Pew data shows the largest part of the shift was among white Catholic independents, with only modest changes among white Catholics who identify as Republicans or Democrats. Independents are the voters one would expect to shift the most in the midst of a presidential campaign.
This suggests that the Catholic outreach efforts for McCain has been effective at keeping Republican Catholics on board, but a disaster when it comes to reaching out to politically independent Catholics. Fortunately for the Democrats, these hard conservatives Catholics are not known for self-criticism so we can count on them making the same mistakes in the future, alienating rather than winning votes.
John Green, Senior Fellow in Religion and American Politics, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life was asked how has Obama, a black Protestant, succeeded with white Catholics in 2008 in a way that Sen. John Kerry, a white Catholic, did not when he was the Democratic nominee in 2004? Green responded:
I think there are some special things about the Obama campaign that may be contributing to this white Catholic shift and may, in fact, lead to white Catholics giving Obama a majority on Election Day. Obama talks much more comfortably about his faith than Kerry did during the 2004 campaign. And Obama talks about it in a way that connects in a fairly straightforward fashion to Catholic social teachings on economic issues. And if one adds other issues that Obama has championed, such as opposition to the war in Iraq, there are a number of key points that white Catholics may find very cogent on religious grounds.
A final difference between 2004 and 2008 may be the more intensive campaigning within the Catholic community on behalf of Obama. New organizations, such as the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good, have been very active alongside older groups, such as Pax Christi and Catholics for Choice. The revival of a “religious left” in national politics has been an important feature of the 2008 campaign.