In the context of the controversy that erupted a few days ago—the Obama Administration’s regulatory mandate requiring Catholic hospitals and other institutions to offer health insurance to their employees that feature provisions in support of birth control, including sterilization procedures—I thought I’d look up data on the Catholic vote. It is amazingly difficult to get these data, but Wikipedia’s article on “Catholic Church and politics in the United States” (link) provides a tabulation at least on the presidential votes from 1948 through 2008. I present this as a graphic:
The summary: In 12 of the last 16 presidential elections (75%), Catholic majorities voted for the winning candidates, now by large and now by narrow margins. In four elections the Catholics backed the losing candidate, in all but one case (1968 - Humphrey against Nixon) by very small margins. In each of these cases, the loser was a Democrat.
According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), Catholics represented 77.7 million people in 2011 (link), a substantial population. The Catholic, not surprisingly therefore, is viewed as a major swing vote, meaning that it does not consistently stick to one party—as these data indicate. Now, of course—as might be expected—one can find numerous sites on the web showing that Catholic women are not uniformly committed to the teachings of the Church regarding birth control, “choice,” etc. And in a story in the NYT this morning the author wonders if the flock will follow the bishops. Well, we shall see. Individual opinions are one thing, identification with the Catholic culture is something else—meaning that even secularized Catholics will feel this sort of thing as a sting.