Catholics are a major voting block, and one that can’t be pigeonholed by Republicans or Democrats. A recent NPR segment compared Vice President Joe Biden with the presumptive Vice Presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan. Both are Catholics, but their worldview is not the same.
Stephen Schneck, a political scientist at Catholic University, said that Biden comes from a more traditional generation of Catholics.
“This is the Catholicism of our old ethnic neighborhoods, and our union halls, and St. Christopher medals on the dashboard sort of thing,” Stephen says.
It is a working-class Catholicism, he says, where the Mass and the rosary are part of the warp and woof of daily life in places such as Scranton, Pa., Biden’s boyhood town. As Biden said when he visited Scranton in 2008, “This is where my family values and my faith melded.”
Those values — of the cop, the fireman, the union leader — placed Catholics solidly in the Democratic camp for decades. Schneck, who co-chairs Catholics for Obama, says these Catholics tend to have a positive attitude toward government.
“Think about John Kennedy’s famous ‘ask not’ lines here,” Schneck says. “For that generation of Catholics, it’s a recognition that government and civil society have a profoundly positive role to play.”
Robert George, a conservative Catholic and professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, says that generation is being supplanted by a younger generation that tends to be more conservative.
“We have a younger generation of Catholics who are more conservative, especially on moral and cultural issues,” he says.
George says these younger Catholics — who are sometimes called “intentional Catholics” — tend to be more committed to conservative parts of Catholic doctrine. Many, like Ryan, 42, came of age during the papacy of John Paul II. They see themselves in Ryan, who opposes same-sex marriage and abortion except when the mother’s life is in danger. In fact, Ryan sponsored a “personhood bill” that would define a fertilized egg as a human being.
Couple that NPR segment with a new poll commissioned by the American Life League which shows President Obama is losing support from Catholics. From an email I received this afternoon:
Between August 15-19 of this year, American Life League commissioned a nationwide telephone survey of 900 self-identified Catholic registered voters. The focus of the survey was Catholic perspectives on the Church and nation. Below are some of the results of the survey.
Only 27 percent of the Catholics surveyed support President Obama. Of those surveyed, 74 percent of Catholic men over the age of 50 do not support Obama, while Obama support among Catholic men under 50 years is only 25 percent. With Catholic women over the age of 50, the president’s support is only 23 percent, with just 31 percent among Catholic women under 50 years.
American Life League speculates that such a dramatic shift may be caused by Obama’s HHS mandates and ensuing legal battle over religious freedom, as 73 percent of Catholics polled believe that the mandates violate their religious freedom.
“This nationwide survey revealed surprising results that should cause our leaders to pause and consider the consequences of their decisions and the impact it has on their constituents. Can Obama’s support among Catholics be dwindling this fast?” said Paul E. Rondeau, ALL executive director. “One thing is certain: Catholics, like most Americans, feel strongly about their religious rights and are committed to defending their faith. Both Church and national leaders should heed this notice.”
The American Life League poll was conducted by ccAdvertising, Centreville, Virginia, which gives the margin of error as +/- 3 percent.
Winning or losing the Catholic vote can make or break a Presidential candidate.