The New York Times opinion section offers a long op-ed on the (perhaps non-existent) Catholic vote, in which the author notes that Catholics are split evenly right now between the two candidates running for president and some thoughts on how the campaigns might gain Catholic votes. From the column:
In 2012, once again, Catholics should be the swing voters of a presidential race. They’re one of the country’s most divided and complex voting blocs, too. One third of Catholics are staunch social conservatives who view abortion as a litmus test when choosing a candidate, but Gallup polling finds the rest of Catholics slightly to the left of the country on most “values” issues.
Recent events have highlighted these divisions. After Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Catholic, said he was “entirely comfortable” with same-sex marriage in early May, President Obama reportedly accelerated his announcement endorsing it. Church leaders condemned Obama, while 68 percent of Catholics — five points higher than the country as a whole — support legal gay and lesbian relationships, and 51 percent support same-sex marriage.
In February, the Obama administration thought it had come to an understanding with the United States Council of Catholic Bishops over a federal mandate compelling Catholic institutions to pay for health care plans that cover birth control. But in the end the bishops rejected an “unjust and unlawful” deal, which Mitt Romney called an “attack on religious tolerance.” Fifty-eight percent of Catholics — including 62 percent of Catholic women — sided with the Obama administration, three points more than the rest of country.
Then there is the Hispanic vote. At 50 million, Hispanics are the fastest growing bloc in the country, solidly Catholic, and focused on the politics of immigration. In 2001, Karl Rove said that increasing the Republican share of the Hispanic vote was his mission, but the 2012 Republican Party doesn’t seem to be paying attention to that line of thinking. Mitt Romney promised to veto the Dream Act, a proposed law that would provide a pathway to legal status for children of illegal immigrants, provided they serve in the military or attend college.
Catholics are up for grabs this year. A Gallup poll from April has President Obama and Mitt Romney tied among Catholics, 46 percent each. At nearly 20 percent of the population, Catholics have roughly mirrored the popular vote in the last eight elections. They voted for Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but switched to Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. In 2000, Catholics, like the country, went under 50 percent for George W. Bush; but against John Kerry, Bush took 52 percent; by 2008, they’d flipped to Barack Obama, 54-45.
Read the full piece here. What are your thoughts? Who will earn the majority of the Catholic vote in 2012, Obama or Romney? Which candidate do you believe espouses Catholic values most clearly? Will the candidates’ faith lives, an issue I explore at Busted Halo, influence the Catholic vote? Will the continued assault on the Obama administration by the US bishops affect his standing with Catholic voters, and if not, how will that reflect on the bishops following the election?