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Wednesday, January 16 2013

Why Rick Santorum Lost the Catholic Vote He Never Had

 

 

Catholic Vote

 

Why Rick Santorum Lost the Catholic Vote He Never Had
by Phil Attey

On Super Tuesday, in what turned out to be a nail-biter of an election,  Republican voters in Ohio gave a tepid endorsement and critical primary win to party frontrunner Mitt Romney.   Today, second runner up, Rick  Santorum's  campaign is rightfully heralding last night's 38%-37% narrow loss to Romney as justification that he should stay in the race  as the true voice of social conservatives, Evangelicals and Catholics.

But exit polls paint a very different picture of where a critical base he claims to represent, is in their support for his rhetoric and agenda, namely, Catholics.

According to exit polling conducted by CNN,  Catholic Republicans in Ohio flatly rejected Catholic candidate Rick Santorum and supported Mormon candidate Mitt Romney by a margin of 31% to 43%.  This is an even wider rejection than Santorum received from Catholics in Romney's home state of Michigan last week, where Santorum lost the Catholic vote by a margin of 37% to Romney's 44%.

Affinity politics play a big part in voter education and voter mobilization in electoral campaigns.  Because of this, it was no surprise in 2008 when President Barack Obama won the overwhelming support from Black voters or in 1960 when  President John F. Kennedy won the overwhelming support of Catholic voters.

So why are American Catholics reject  a candidate who campaigns that as President , he would not separate his Catholic faith from his public policy, rather than campaigning on jobs and the economy?  The answer is simple.  The idea of a president doing that scares Catholics even more than it scares other voters  less familiar with the Vatican-directed institutional church.

Last week Mr. Santorum lashed out against Cleveland based Catholic radio host Bill Cunningham after Cunningham asked him about losing the Catholic vote in Michigan.   Santorum raged that he has the support of "churchgoing" Catholics and took the opportunity to dismiss Catholics who don't support him as estranged from the faith or "cafeteria" Catholics.  But again, are Santorum's claims about his Catholic support at all grounded in reality?  Do observant Catholics  find any more affinity with Santorum's  attacks on the poor, the sick, the marginalized, and the oppressed than non-observant Catholics?

Regarding Mr. Santorum's  well documented attacks on LGBT people and their families, it's clear we do not.   In a poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlin Rosner Research last year for the Human Rights Campaign, Catholics topped every faith community in every question in  support for LGBT equality.   But one graph  in particular addresses the reaction of both observant and non-observant Catholics when they hear religious leaders engaging in anti-gay rhetoric.

Greenberg Poll Slide 

 

The poll showed that while non-observant Catholics tie with non-observant Christians at 77%, believing such rhetoric does more harm than good,  leading this question at 84% are observant Catholics.

To the outside observer this may seem a bit bizarre, but to most American Catholics it makes perfect sense.

American Catholics do not go to Mass to be subjected to political messages or dogmatic dictates from Rome.  And we certainly don't go to Mass to hear our LGBT family members demonized and blamed for the world's problems.   We go to Mass to celebrate the Eucharist and to share the mysteries of our faith with our broader Catholic community.   Anti-gay rhetoric from the pulpit or from people proclaiming to be "Catholic leaders"  is more offensive to observant Catholics than non-observant Catholics.

And because of that,  observant Catholics, even more than non-observant Catholics,  reject Rick Santorum.  And, we are voting against him.

 

Phil Attey is the executive director of Catholics for Equality, the country's largest national political organization of Catholics who put their faith into ethical and effective political action on behalf of the LGBT community and their families.


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