Post-mortem on the Catholic vote
The Catholic swing vote appears to have gone to Obama yesterday, with most exit poling showing the Democrat make huge gains among Catholics over John Kerry's results in 2004. Beliefnet.com has some interesting numbers, along with commentary from Beliefnet editor Steven Waldman. Most interssting the mere 5-point spread between the candidates (47 percent to Obama and 52 to McCain) among Catholics who attend church weekly; Kerry lost that group in 2004 by 13 points (43 to 56). Among Catholics who don't attend weekly, Obama won by 18 points (58 to 40); Kerry barely squeaked by Bush (50 to 49).
It's always hard to know how much one can attribute a voter's choice to religion, of course. Andrew Greeley takes a stab at explaining why a majority of Catholics might have voted for Obama in his post-election column for the Chicago Sun-Times. Tom Reese, former editor of America magazine, also commented on the Catholic vote on Newsweek's website. Both addressed the question of abortion, an issue which evidently was less prominent in Catholic voters' minds this time around.
But it won't go away. Reese points out that if Congress passes the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which will override several state restrictions and Supreme Court rulings against late-term abortions, and President Obama signs it, Catholics will have a hard time supporting them again. The proof will be in the pudding: If, as many pro-Obama Catholics have argued, the Democratic agenda will result in a reduction in the annual number of abortions, their moral logic may continue to prevail. If, however, abortion policy becomes more permissive, Catholics may quickly return to the GOP.