Are Catholics really trending Democratic?

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Celebration of Latin Mass on Palm Sunday in Boston


Celebration of Latin Mass on Palm Sunday in Boston

The surveys say yes.

In June, Pew showed shifts of 22 and 12 points respectively among frequent and less frequent Mass-goers towards the Democratic presidential candidate from four years earlier.

Earlier this month, PRRI had Clinton up over Trump by three points among white Catholics, who have been trending strongly Republican in recent elections.

Last weekend, the Washington Post disclosed some new findings from its most recent poll with ABC that show Catholic swinging 25 points toward Clinton from Obama four years ago — a swing equalled only by white college-educated women.

It’s “hard to overstate just how significant Trump’s poor performance among Catholics is.” writes the Post‘s Aaron Blake.

And yet, there are those who want to understate it.

For example, Ashley E. McGuire of The Catholic Association, a Washington-based outfit that describes itself as “a faithful Catholic voice in the public square.”

In a column for RealClearReligion a few days ago, McGuire claims that reports that a massive shift in the Catholic vote is “statistical mischief” amounting to little more than “thinly disguised politicking by partisans.”

The gist of her argument is:

  1. The only Catholics who really count as “the Catholic vote” are the faithful ones who attend Mass weekly.
  2. The apparent shift of frequent Mass-goers to the Democratic candidate is largely the result of a significant increase in the percentage of frequent Mass-goers who are Hispanic, Blacks, and Asian.
  3. Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians are Democratic voters anyway.
  4. Ergo, the only faithful Catholics who count are the white ones and they (probably) aren’t switching to the Democratic candidate

I suppose this may give comfort to folks like Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Anderson, the sometime GOP operative who is using his bully pulpit to tell his co-religionists not to vote for any politician who supports abortion rights.

But whether or not frequent-Mass-going white Catholics are sticking with the Republican presidential candidate (and I have my doubts), they represent a rapidly shrinking part of the Catholic vote. There’s no statistical mischief about that.