CV NEWS FEED // A recent analysis by political scientist Ryan Burge, PhD, showed that the percentage of white Catholics who support the Democratic Party has substantially declined over the past several decades.
In an article posted to his Substack “Graphs About Religion,” Burge debunked the common Democratic claim that the white Catholic vote helped Democrats win in recent elections. For example, Democratic strategist Kevin Walling once penned an op-ed in The Hill claiming that “[President] Biden’s fellow Catholics helped deliver him to the White House” in 2020.
“White Catholics used to align pretty strongly with the Democrats, but that hasn’t been the case in the last four decades,” Burge wrote in his piece titled “The Myth of the White Catholic Democrat.”
“White Catholics are right of center, politically,” he continued. “They favor Republicans over Democrats.”
Burge cited voting statistics that clearly show white Catholics favored Republican candidates in the vast majority of presidential elections conducted in most Americans’ lifetimes.
“In every election from 1980 through 2020 (that’s 11 in total), the Democrat got a clear majority of the white Catholic vote in just two of them – Clinton’s election in 1992 and his reelection in 1996,” Burge wrote:
In 2004, the white Catholic vote was evenly divided but in the average election during this time period the GOP’s margin of support is usually about 8 points among white Catholics.
White Catholics lean toward the Republicans on election day. And, that’s not just a modern phenomenon. I would argue that after looking at this it would be fair to say that the White Catholic vote has been a point of strength for the GOP since 1972 (with a few minor exceptions).
Per Burge’s research, Catholic Democrat John F. Kennedy won 82% of the white Catholic vote in 1960. His Republican opponent Richard Nixon won only 17%.
Just twelve years later, Nixon won the white Catholic vote by a landslide margin of 63-37 over his Democratic opponent George McGovern.
Contrary to Walling’s column, in the 2020 election, President Donald Trump carried the demographic by 12 points over Biden, a self-professed Catholic.
Burge also pointed out that when Nixon overwhelmingly won among white Catholics in 1972, 67% of the cohort were registered as Democrats, with only 21% being Republicans. Today, only 36% of white Catholics are registered Democrats. Meanwhile, the percentage of white Catholics who are Republicans has more than doubled to 44%.
“If anything, I think there’s evidence that the white Catholics will continue to coalesce around the GOP,” Burge continued. He cited a study showing that a near-nonexistent percentage of recently ordained Catholic priests describe themselves as “liberal” or “progressive.”
CBS News called Burge “one of the country’s leading data analysts on religion and politics.” He is also a Baptist pastor.
Read Burge’s full analysis here.