Some of my research on Catholics and political commitment was featured in the Winter 2023 issue of The CARA Report. “Nuances in Support of Catholic Causes” highlights that the polarization gap closes–and for some issues, disappears altogether–as commitment to Catholicism increases.
I broke our sample of 1500 Catholics into those who identified as Democrat or Republican, and then also broke those folks down by whether they were high commitment, medium commitment or low commitment Catholics (“commitment” is a composite variable based on Mass attendance, likelihood of leaving the Catholic Church and how personally important the Catholic Church is to them). I found that, when asked about government funded health insurance, supporting migrating families, and opposing the death penalty–all “Democrat-friendly” issues–both Democrats and Republicans became increasingly supportive of the Catholic position as their Catholic commitment increases (this is less noticeable for Democrats on the health insurance and migration issues, where we’re approaching saturation with the support). On the death penalty issue, the high commitment Catholic support among Republicans was so strong that they actually surpassed the low commitment Democrats! At least more than half of high commitment Catholic Republicans defected from their party and selected the Catholic position for these three issues.
These data show that while the majority of Catholics tend to vote through the thinking of their party, the high commitment Catholics will also consider their faith, so much so that they will break with the party lines. The polarization narrative is not as cut and dry as we often make it out to be (thank goodness!).
All this and more will be featured in a book that Jim Cavendish, Paul Perl and Michele Dillon and I are writing up right now, so stay tuned. Thank you, CARA, for helping our research find its way into the hands of ministers and Catholic leaders who will apply this to their ministries.