Is There a Substantial Catholic Vote in the 2018 Midterms?

Throughout the semester, when we discussed the Catholic vote, we stressed the intersectionality behind Catholicism. In discussions from 2000 by scholar E.J. Dionne, in There is No ‘Catholic Vote.” And Yet, It matters, the emphasis of an array of Catholic voters provided assurance that Catholics do not vote the same. However, the description of Catholic voters as “the ultimate swing vote” is harder to establish. As Dionne explored the different identities of Catholics, considering their vote a “swing vote” would ignore the other identities and issues they are voting on beyond their Catholic fate. Hank Murphy at the Behind the Tweets roundtable detailed how the Catholic vote in the 2018 midterm elections was split 50/50 among party lines. This split shows that the Catholic vote was not a unified bloc and should not be stressed as a swing vote. Described in many articles, including those from Aleteia.org, Catholicnewsagency.com, and Catholicvote.org, the main issue for Catholics in this election and others are abortion politics. However, given the moral implications of abortion beliefs, it is hard to say whether abortion is the main force behind the Catholic vote as those articles proclaimed. If this was the root to Catholic voting, it would be safe to see a majority of votes to Republicans, the majority pro-life party, but the trend is not always notable—mostly compared to other religious groups shown below. Hank Murphy at the roundtable explained the voting patterns beyond abortion efficiently. He described how some Catholics do vote because of abortion, but many Catholics vote for death penalty legislation or immigration legislation. As the previous, right-leaning articles emphasized abortion politics, the biases restricted visibility of the other issues Catholics care about.

 

 

The above graphic from Pew Research Center shows how different religious groups voted in midterm elections since 2006. The chart shows that in 2018, the party split among Catholic voters was 50:49. This ratio shifted from 2010 and 2014 where a greater number of Catholics voted for a Republican. However, in 2006, the majority was toward the Democrats. The general affiliation can shift throughout the years in this chart, but there has been a variety of voting gaps and majority affiliation. If the trend from 2018 continues, then Catholics will continue to be less of a swing vote if their decisions remain split almost completely down the middle. Catholics view politics in a magnitude of different ways and the party gaps throughout midterm elections have stayed consistent or gotten smaller—regardless of which parties received the majority of votes. As the Catholic vote is not heavily split, multiple issues would take part in decision-making making processes.

Although the Catholic vote was more evenly split than other years, predictions of Catholic votes swaying in a majority toward a specific party are few and far between. As previously mentioned scholar E.J. Dionne put it,“Catholics haven’t voted as a bloc since the early 1960s, when they solidly backed America’s one and only Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.” The close split among Catholic voters has been the trend for decades, and this year was not any different.

 

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A view of the roundtable. (By me)

 

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