Is Trump encountering a 'Catholic problem?'

By September 2, 2016 Articles

For months the only publicly available breakouts of religious groups in presidential polling usually involved white evangelicals, a crucial demographic for Donald Trump in both the primaries and the general election.
But now comes the Public Religion Research Institute with a more thorough set of religious slicing and dicing, producing a near-screaming headline at the Washington Post: “Donald Trump has a massive Catholic problem.”
Noting that exit-poll data has in recent elections identified the Catholic vote as quite even and something of a bellwether, the Post’s Aaron Blake marveled at the 23-point advantage PRRI’s survey gave Clinton at present, and wondered if this might be a bigger problem for Trump than all the others we keep talking about. Did Trump’s tiff with Pope Francis over immigration policy hurt him more than we realized? Have ancestral white Catholic memories of insults from Protestant nativists been awakened by Trump’s nasty comments about (largely Catholic) Mexican drug runners and rapists?
There may be a little of both of those factors coming into play: Francis’s not-so-subtle rebuke of people with Trump’s views being “not Christian” was unusual to say the least, and American Catholic solicitude for immigrants does indeed have a very long history.
But it’s also worth noting that PRRI’s top-line numbers were a bit outlier-ish (they showed HRC up by 13 points), and also that National Election Study numbers show that Catholics in recent elections lean more toward Democrats (e.g., showing Obama winning the Catholic vote by 14 points in 2008 and 9 points in 2012) than do the less accurate exit polls Blake cites, meaning Trump is already at a disadvantage with that demographic. So it’s not clear that Trump’s standing is as catastrophic as the comparison between this one poll and the exits might suggest.
That said, it is interesting to look at the makeup of Trump’s unusually poor standing among Catholics in the PRRI survey. It shows him losing white Catholics (lately a marginally pro-Republican group) by a 41-44 margin, while losing Latino Catholics (typically a more liberal group when compared to Protestants, who tend to belong to fundamentalist or Pentecostal faith communities) by a catastrophic 13-76 margin. Unless you buy the poorly documented idea that Trump does just fine among Latinos, it should not be surprising that the faith tradition to which a majority of Latino-Americans belong would push the overall preferences of their religious colleagues in a pretty decisive direction away from the mogul. Beyond that, yes, it seems that a relative weakness among white Catholics — whatever its genesis — is keeping Trump from winning the kind of super majorities among palefaces he is relying on to offset his stark unpopularity with people of color.
I hope more attention is paid to this dynamic in surveys undertaken from here on out. I’m curious how the guy who won 82 percent of the vote in the white Catholic stronghold of Staten Island in the New York Republican primary back in April is now struggling with the children of Mother Church.


  • Doug says:

    Yet another pant load from a typically paranoid, hysterical and less than factual anti-Trump antagonist.
    There has been one Catholic president in our national history and we all know what took place there (or do we?).
    Reading this skewing of facts and twisting of numbers, I must remind myself that the church is not immune to ingiltration by evil, anti-American liberals with global Marxist ideals.
    I will remind tjis writer that the goal if the church is the salvation of souls … Not political manipulation.
    Mr. Trump is a product of the American dream that we all have access to, if we refuse to listen to bitter hatred, like thw deception contained in this article.
    We look on as the pope encourages the acceptance of Muslim “refugees” among us; Muslims, who live only for the extinction of Christian and Jewish ideology. I accept the fact that evil, although it shall not prevail, has entered out midst within the church.
    I remind the writer that this nation is a result of a mission of Christopher Columbus, who embarked upon this mission in an effort to finance the war against Muslim invaders who had invaded and conquered much of the holy land, including Christ’s birth land.
    Mr. Trump proposes that this nation reestablish her identity and sovereignty. That is all.
    Marxist globalists have engaged in a ceaseless attack upon him, relying upon the fact that many Christians, Catholics included are so hypnotized by modern media that they will not recognize truly evil bigotry and anti-Christian rhetoric.
    Mr. Trump is a Christian, with Christian ideals; far from the Islamic ideals that we have been encouraged to embrace by ideologically corrupted Catholic leaders (who shall remain unnamed).
    I recall times in history that the church elected to get involved in politics … How did that work out for us ?!?!

  • Trenton Mitchell says:

    Let’s put it plainly, we have 2 choices for President, one of whom (Mrs Clinton) is an abortion activist, the other (Mr Trump) is controversial on his immigration proposals. As a catholic, I cannot and never will vote for a candidate who advocates for the killing of unborn children. I am voting according to my faith and conscience and would hope that all Catholics will do the same.

  • Joe says:

    seriously??? the abortion issue with the dems is the problem…Catholics should never vote Dem.

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