Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Catholics Could Decide the Presidential Election

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Catholics Could Decide the Presidential Election

Article excerpt

A new report points to the important role that Catholics could play in November's presidential election, showing that they are almost evenly split between President Obama and Mitt Romney and that they are open to both candidates' views of the role the government should play in helping the poor.

Moreover, 2008 exit polls show that at least 23 percent of voters in key swing states such as Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin were Catholic, suggesting that their votes could prove decisive in a tight race this year.

Among the five main religious groups studied by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Brookings Institution, three take clear sides, both in the presidential race and on the role the government should play in society, according to a study of 3,000 likely voters released Monday.

Black protestants and Americans unaffiliated with any religion generally favor Mr. Obama and are comparatively more supportive of government programs to help the poor. Meanwhile, white Evangelicals generally line up with Mr. Romney and take a more negative view of government-assistance programs.

In the middle are white mainline protestants and Catholics, who together make up about one-third of the population. But while white mainline Protestants show a small but significant tilt toward Obama (52 to 45 percent), Catholic voters evenly divided, with 49 percent favoring Obama and 47 percent favoring Romney. That is within the surveys 2 percentage point margin of error.

They are also open to both liberal and conservative messages on the social safety net an issue central to the two candidates' visions for the federal budget.

On one hand, 65 percent of Catholics say that government policies aimed at helping the poor serve as a crucial safety net. This figure is roughly in line with those for white mainline Protestants and the country as a whole, suggesting Catholics sit in the political middle and are open to Obama's left-of-center policies. (By contrast, 84 percent of black Protestants see the safety net as crucial, while only 53 percent of Evangelicals do.)

You can see why Mitt Romneys 47 percent comments were so controversial, said E. …

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