Santorum Lost The Catholic Vote Last Night

Looking through the exit polling from Michigan and Arizona, there’s one fact that stood out to me. In both states, Rick Santorum, who has made his Catholicism and his positions on culture war issues like contraception part of his campaign for weeks now, lost the Catholic vote to a Mormon. In Michigan, Catholics went for Romney over Santorum 44% to 37%, and in Arizona they went for Romney over Santorum 44% to 34%.

Some might consider this surprising considering the religious ties of the candidates, but Ed Kilgore wonders if Santorum ever really had the Catholic vote:

The last contest with exit polling by the networks was Florida. There Santorum won 13% of the overall vote, but just 10% of Catholics; Mitt Romney ran a bit better among Catholics than he did overall. Now maybe you could say Florida’s heavily Latino Catholic vote is atypical. What about South Carolina? There Santorum won 17% of the overall vote, but just 15% of Catholics. Again, Romney peformed a bit better among Catholics than among voters generally.

If you want to write off both those states because Santorum did not campaign heavily there, and/or because fellow-Catholic Newt Gingrich was the most important non-Romney candidate, then go back to Iowa. For some reason, Edison Research’s entrance polls there did not break down voters by religious affiliation, but did ask if voters considered themselves evangelical or “born-again” Christians. Now that’s a term normally associated with Protestants, though ABC’s polling analyst Gary Langer has suggested that 14% of Catholics identify themselves as “born-again.” Even if you take that “born-again Catholic” minority into account, it doesn’t look like Rick did that well among his co-religionists, winning only 14% of non-“born-agains” as opposed to his overall statewide percentage of 25% (again, Romney romped among non-“born-agains,” which obviously includes mainline Protestants, Jews, the unchurched, etc.).

So based on prior evidence, there’s really no particular reason to think the “Catholic vote” was ever Santorum’s to lose. His voting base has always been conservative evangelical Protestants, who also make up a high percentage of the voters fixated on making abortion illegal, a particularly strong Santorum demographic.

This makes sense. After all, more than one pundit has mistakenly called Rick Santorum one of America’s leading evangelical politicians when he is, in fact, a Catholic. Considering that this is the group where his support seems to be coming from, perhaps it wasn’t a mistake after all.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, Religion, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. DRS says:

    Like I said in another thread, he’s a Protestant’s idea of what a Catholic should sound like. He doesn’t go on about the hierarchy or Rome or bishops or refer to “priests” rather than the more familiar “ministers”. You can safely support him without worrying about all the incense and red velvet robes stuff because he only talks about the same cultural issues that Protestants are used to hearing from their own church leaders.

    He sounds slightly off – not exactly weird – but definitely off to the Catholics in my own circle who do expect to hear more about the official Catholic Church (Inc.) in discussing religion.

  2. legion says:

    Also, most religious Americans simply aren’t that devout. A majority of Catholics support Obama’s policy on healthcare covering contraception. Hell, a majority of US Catholics _have used_ contraception. Jesus explicitly derided people who trumpet their faith in the public square – people who use their faith to define everything about themselves, like Santorum, come of as either phony or creepy, even to other members of their own religion.

  3. Kylopod says:

    After all, more than one pundit has mistakenly called Rick Santorum one of America’s leading evangelical politicians when he is, in fact, a Catholic.

    The Time Magazine piece that listed Santorum as one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals” (that’s what you’re referring to, right?) was perfectly aware that Santorum is a Catholic. Here is what it said: “The Senate’s third-ranking Republican may be a Catholic, but he’s the darling of Protestant Evangelicals.” It’s a strange choice for a list like this, but it wasn’t based on an ignorance of Santorum’s religion, as you seem to be implying, just an awkward attempt to stretch the list’s scope a bit to include someone who was “influential among evangelicals” even if he wasn’t one himself.

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Excellent points. Indeed, what at first glance appears to be a shocking outcome really shouldn’t surprise anyone. There are a helluva lot of cafeteria Catholics out there. Santorum has gone way too far on items such as birth control, abortion and related social issues.

    Separate but related point: This ultimately could affect the outcome of the November general election, even after Romney finally disposes of Santorum’s candidacy. Let’s just say hypothetically that Santorum keeps winning enough delegates that Romney winds up with no choice but to name him Veep. Well, having the 2012 version of Santorum on the ticket could make things worse for Romney among the Catholic demographic. In that event it virtually would be impossible for Romney to win the general election. There are a lot of Catholics out there in a number of swing states, e.g., Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Mexico. The prospective irony there would be amazing.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Catholics are smarter than evangelicals. They have a long (long, long) institutional memory, they’ve been playing politics since Augustus, they grew from empire. They do serious philosophy in addition to theology. Just all in all a very different animal than evangelicals who, let’s face it, are the illiterates of Christianity.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    There are a helluva lot of cafeteria Catholics out there.

    Including Santorum…

  7. de stijl says:

    I just Googled born-again Catholics to figure out just that would entail when I saw about five results down this little blurb:

    “Are Catholics Christian? Ten Doctrinal Proofs that Roman Catholics are not Christians.”

    The mind boggles. Some people see heretics wherever they look. But it is a nice karmic pay-back for Rih seeing as he claims that main-stream Protestants are agents of Satan.

  8. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl: I was once reading a message board where someone stated that she was a convert to Christianity, and then in parentheses she wrote, “I used to be RC.” I stared at the comment for an entire minute trying to figure out what religion had the initials “RC.” Rastafarian? Royal Crown? Then it dawned on me that she meant Roman Catholic. In other words, she was saying she used to be a Catholic, but now she’s a Christian. Get it?

    (There’s something surpassing odd about this belief. What, do they think Christianity was dead for a thousand years until Luther revived it? Are all the saints going to Hell?)

  9. JohnMcC says:

    @Kylopod: I grew up in the fundamentalist, dispensationalist tradition. As of the 1960’s it was precisely correct that ‘Christianity died’ between Emperor Constantine and Luther — altho there was of course a ‘remnant’ to keep the tiny flame from going out completely. I recommend a book (it was given to me when I was in Junior High) called ‘Fox’s Book of Martyrs’. It is why Shia Islam reminds me of fundamentalist protestantism.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    Michael,

    Not that I disagree with your comment, but “they’ve been playing politics since Augustus” is not right. Tiberius, not Augustus.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @Moosebreath:

    You are absolutely correct. Tiberius. And what a charming fellow to introduce one to politics. I always wondered why Mr. and Mrs. Kirk gave that middle name to their son, James.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    Then again, now that I think about Kirk’s, shall we say, openmindedness on sexual matters, maybe Tiberius was just right.

  13. de stijl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Almost Caligulan. Plus, the whole tribble affair pretty much outed Kirk as a plushy.

  14. @de stijl:

    Some people see heretics wherever they look.

    Technically this is seein apostates wherever they look. Heretics would still be Christians. ;>

  15. @JohnMcC:

    It is why Shia Islam reminds me of fundamentalist protestantism.

    I’d say this is almost 180 backward. Shia Islam, with it’s well definied hierachies, seems more like Catholic or Orthodox Christianity, and Sunni Islam, which is extremely decentralized, seems more like Protestantism.

  16. Jr says:

    Not surprising, I am Catholic and I will admit we do a ton of dumb things…..but we are fairly pragmatic when it comes to issues like contraception…….the priest and bishops are a who another story though.

  17. There is another point: you can accuse Catholics of everything, but we are not puritans. And we do not hate sex.

  18. anjin-san says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time discussing this with my wife, who is a practicing Catholic. Her take is that the congregation in her church cares little for Papal edicts or what the bishops think. Sermons tend to focus on striving to be a better person and following a spiritual path (and they are reasonably open to concepts such as Buddhism). They do a lot of charity work, acting on the principle that faith without good works is empty.

    That’s it, very little chatter about birth control or abortion. The church opposes them, but there is a sense that we live in an imperfect world, and judgement is reserved for God. My wife is downright militant about a woman’s right to control her own body.

    I don’t think there is as much hay to be made here as conservatives think there is.