Catholic vote key for Trump in Michigan

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Seal of Michigan

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Seal of Michigan

Seal of Michigan

Seal of Michigan

How do I know this? Because on March 3, Mitchell Research & Communications released a poll that actually asked Republican voters more about their religious identity than whether they’re evangelicals. Conducted for Fox News in Detroit the day after Super Tuesday, it found that Donald Trump was supported by 52 percent of Catholic Republicans in the state, as compared to 42 percent overall.

Ted Cruz, at 19 percent, had the support of only 11 percent of Catholics. Marco Rubio, himself a Catholic, fared only marginally better among his co-religionists: 16 percent versus 15 percent. Catholics chose John Kasich at the same rate as everyone else — 14 percent. Ben Carson, then still in the race, was at 5 percent overall, 2 percent among Catholics.

Michigan Catholics are concentrated in the southeastern part of the state where deindustrialization has taken away so many good blue-collar jobs. This is the white population that gave votes to Wallace in 1968  1972 and became Reagan Democrats in the eighties. Trump promises to bring the jobs back, which is enough to trump anything Pope Francis says about immigration.

In Tuesday’s GOP primary, Catholics will be one-third of the vote and Protestants one-half. The Mitchell poll shows the latter more closely divided, with 33 percent for Trump, 25 for Cruz, 14  for Rubio, 13 for Kasich, and 8 for Carson. Evangelicals alone — 36 percent of the vote — put Cruz ahead of Trump by a nose, 31 percent to 30 percent. That tells us that non-evangelicals, i.e. Mainliners, have very little use for Cruz.

So what will happen on Tuesday?

Compared to Mitchell’s mid-February poll, Trump and Carson have held steady while the three other candidates all gained a few points (from the departed Jeb Bush and “Undecided”). In the meantime, the latest Michigan poll from ARG — taken on Friday and Saturday — shows a leap for Kasich from 17 percent three weeks ago to 33 percent, putting him out in front of Trump, who dropped from 35 percent to 31 percent. ARG has Cruz gaining a few points to 15 percent, Rubio and Carson sliding to 11 percent and six percent respectively.

If ARG is right — and Saturday’s primary and caucus results suggest that it is — the post-Super Tuesday attacks on Trump are finding their mark. Then, on Tuesday, Cruz will pick up most of the now departed Carson’s evangelicals, Trump will hold his his Catholic base, Rubio will continue to fade, and the governor from next door will get a flood of Protestants. That would leave Trump and Kasich fighting it out for first place in the mid-thirties, Cruz finishing in the low 20s, and Rubio falling into the single digits.

Update: A new Mitchell/Fox 2 Detroit poll, taken yesterday, shows Trump comfortably back on top, Kasich falling into a tie for second place with Cruz, and Rubio no longer in double digits. Adding to Trump’s robust Catholic support is improved standing with Protestants — including evangelicals. The big Kasich bump in the earlier poll may prove to have been an anomaly.

  • yoh

    Well none of them are going to be endearing to the population of Deerborn. The largest Muslim enclave in the US. I can see a lot of anti-GOP activity there . All Republican candidates have played the Islam a phobia card.

  • Larry

    Yoh, that has nothing to do with how Republicans will vote.

  • yoh

    The Muslim vote in used to be solidly Republican. That is until the Republicans decided pandering to sectarian bigotry was more useful to them.

  • ARG has had a soft-spot for Kasich this year, so that Kasich squeaker is likely to be an outlier, but he’s been running some effective ads that focus on job-creating that would appeal to those children of Reagan Democrats.

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  • Dimitri Cavalli

    Silk alleges that white, blue collar Catholics “gave votes” to George Wallace, the Third Party segregationist candidate in 1968. Wallace received only 10 percent of the vote in Michigan, and Hubert Humphrey carried the state. While I’m sure you can point to Catholics who voted for Wallace in the general election, didn’t the majority of these voters side with Richard Nixon? See http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/datagraph.php?year=1968&fips=26&f=0&off=0&elect=0

  • My mistake: I should have said 1972, when Wallace won the Michigan primary.

  • John Kromkowski

    Revisionist history regarding Catholic vote and Wallace, didn’t happen in either 68 or 72. Made up narrative that “ethnics” (aka Catholics) were generically racists, never held up to actual scrutiny of precinct by precinct voting. That made up narrative was part of Nixon dirty tricks to try to divide likely supporters of Catholic candidates rfk in 68 and muskie in 72, who Nixon feared.

    Nixon got 33% of Catholic vote in 68, in 72 it was 52% but that was a landslide election.

  • John Kromkowski

    Also, wasnt Michigan 1972 primary after he was shot and I thought there was a push by one of the papers to have republicans cross over and vote in dem primary for Wallace (dirty tricks).

  • Jay

    I’m voting trump this election , will be the first republican I ever vote for. The republican party uses wedge issues like gay marriage and abortion to get their base but that’s not their real agenda, their real agenda is union busting, tax cuts for the rich, and free trade. I’m a pro labor pro gun pro protectionist independant who hates both parties but since trump is promising to secure our border, place protectionist tariffs and bring back manufacturing jobs to america, and protect the second ammendment, he has my vote this election. He also promises to protect social security, and he’s a nationalist which is exactly what we need after having a president for eight years who I don’t believe loves this country