The Catholic Swing Vote

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Joseph Bottum revisits his theory that there is no such thing as a “Catholic vote”:

It’s peculiar, the political invisibility of Catholic voters. More than 68 million of them live in the United States, well over 20 percent of the population, and their vote is becoming indistinguishable from the nation’s. “The Catholic vote has gone to the popular winner in every presidential election since 1972,” noted the Wall Street Journal. So has the general vote. Catholics behave at the polls just like everyone else.

I have the same objection I registered the last time he wrote about this topic.

Most demographic groups do not routinely vote for the winner. Blacks don’t. Evangelicals don’t. Union members don’t. The fact that Catholics do vote for the winner suggests that, more than most groups, they determine who the winner is.

Bottum has in one respect modified his claim. Last time around I pointed out that the Catholic vote typically swings more than the national average does. His take on this fact is that “[t]hese differences are small, and they suggest, if anything, that Catholics don’t swing elections; they get swung by those elections—moving a fraction more than other groups toward the national choice.” If they lead, rather than follow, changes in public opinion; if campaigns swing them more than they do other voters: They’re a swing group.

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