Photo: by Phil Roeder/Creative Commons license

The polling giant has some interesting analysis today from one of its scientists, Frank Newport, on religion and the presidential race:

The challenge for a Catholic candidate like Biden is the lack of evidence that Catholics in any way vote as a bloc or that their religion differentiates them from all other voters. In fact, the remarkable finding in the current era is the degree to which Catholics mirror almost exactly the national average on political indicators. This is significantly different from other religious groups who have much more distinct political profiles — including evangelical Protestants and Mormons, who skew very Republican, and Jews, Muslims, and “nones” (those with no formal religious identity) who skew Democratic.

Gallup data aggregated from surveys conducted through July of this year show that 49% of Catholic adults identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 43% identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. These percentages are little different from the political identity of the overall adult population. Similarly, over the first six months of the year, 45% of Catholics approved of the job being done by President Donald Trump, identical to the national average. Trump’s approval rating has dropped recently, but the similarity between Catholics and the national population has been maintained; 37% of Catholics approve of Trump in Gallup’s last two polls, almost identical to the national average of 39%.

As is true among almost all religious groups in the U.S., Catholics’ political orientation differs by the intensity of their religiosity. Practicing Catholics — those who attend church monthly or more frequently — are significantly more Republican in orientation and more likely to approve of Trump than those who attend less frequently. Gallup analysis in 2004 showed that practicing Catholics were much more likely to support Bush over Kerry than non-practicing Catholics.

The other significant distinction within the Catholic population in the U.S. today is ethnicity — with about a third of Catholics in Gallup’s data identifying as Hispanic. Among non-Hispanic, White Catholics (there are very few Black Catholics), 56% identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, with 39% identifying with or leaning toward the Democrats. Again, not surprisingly, this is almost identical to the political identification of all non-Hispanic White Americans so far this year. Hispanic Catholics, by contrast, skew Democratic, with 62% in Gallup’s data identifying with or leaning toward the Democratic party, roughly the same as the 58% of the total sample of Hispanic Americans.

Thus, Biden has a built-in edge among Catholics who are not regular churchgoers and who are Hispanic Americans, both of whom are disproportionately predisposed to be Democrats. Biden faces his biggest challenge among White, non-Hispanic Catholics, and among practicing Catholics, as both groups skew more Republican in their politics and are more likely to approve of the job Trump is doing as president — a good indicator of propensity to vote for him this fall.

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