The latest US polls reveal President Donald Trump’s support is slipping amongst white Catholics in the run-up to the presidential election on November 3.
Polling by both the Pew Research Center and Langer Research Associates show that Trump’s presidential rival, Joe Biden, has made significant gains amongst white Catholics, previously a crucial demographic of support for the incumbent president.
Published on October 13 and conducted between September 30 and October 5, the Pew Research Center poll found that 51 per cent of Catholics would vote or lean towards voting for Biden, with just 44 per cent saying that they supported Trump.
President Trump still managed to win out amongst white Catholics, 52 per cent of whom said they were leaning towards voting for Trump, compared to just 44 per cent who said the same of Biden. But this marks a significant decline in Trump’s support amongst white Catholics compared to his 19-point lead over Joe Biden in the Pew Center’s summer polling, when support for Trump stood at 59 per cent and support for Biden was just 40 per cent.
The fall in support amongst white Catholics could leave Trump at a significant disadvantage in securing the overall Catholic vote, with other Catholic demographics showing strong support for Joe Biden. The latest Pew poll, for example, showed Hispanic Catholics favouring Biden by 67 per cent to Trump’s 26 per cent.
The Catholic vote is widely considered a crucial “swing vote” in American elections, with the majority Catholic vote in US presidential elections nearly always supporting the overall winner.
Barack Obama, for example, won the presidency twice having each time secured the majority of Catholic votes, with a 9-point lead over John McCain in 2008 and a 3-point lead over Mitt Romney 2012. This, however, swung back towards the Republicans at the last election. Exit polls in 2016 suggested Trump had a 7-point lead over Hilary Clinton in the Catholic vote, a swing which ultimately helped Trump win the Electoral College despite losing the overall popular vote.
Trump’s strong support amongst white Catholics in 2016 was critical to the general Catholic vote swinging toward the Republicans, with exit polls showing that 60 per cent of white Catholics had voted for Trump, versus just 37 per cent who voted for Clinton.
This means that a 43-point lead at the last election has now fallen to just a 7-point lead in the recent Pew poll.
This sharp decline in support, however, appears starker in an October 11 poll carried out by Langer Research Associates, which showed even weaker support for Trump amongst white Catholics than did the Pew Center’s recent polling.
Conducted between October 6 and 9, the week after the Pew Center survey, the Langer poll, completed on behalf of ABC News/Washington Post, showed a majority of white Catholics now supported Biden.
51 per cent of white Catholics surveyed on their voting preferences said that they favoured Biden, compared to just 44 per cent of white Catholics who said they would vote for Trump.
This 6-point lead for Joe Biden amongst white Catholics helped bring his total lead in the Langer poll to 12 points amongst registered voters as a whole. A significant reason for the decline in support comes from Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with the same poll showing Biden with a 17-point lead over Trump in overall voter trust when it comes to the issue of handling the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite ongoing scrutiny of his pro-abortion political stances, the Biden campaign has actively sought to win back the Catholic vote. They ran an ad campaign that leant heavily on Biden “being raised as a Catholic and being educated by the nuns” and they opened and closed the Democratic Convention with prayers led by Sr Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK, and James Martin SJ, editor at America Media.
Trump has made similar overtures to Catholics, inviting Sr Deirdre Byrne, a former Colonel in the US Army, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to address the Republican Convention earlier this year and describing himself as the “best [president] in the history of the Catholic Church”.
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