The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960

By Shaun A. Casey | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

What, ultimately, was the electoral impact of Kennedy’s Catholicism? Did his religion help or hurt him? The short answer is that it depends on what time frame you examine. Gallup polls maintained that Kennedy’s early popularity in 1958 and 1959 was undercut as more voters learned that he was Catholic. That is undoubtedly true. Yet Catholic bloc voting in Wisconsin helped him to defeat Humphrey there while at the same time Humphrey’s strength in the more Protestant regions of the state kept him in the race long enough to face Kennedy in overwhelmingly Protestant West Virginia. Kennedy’s triumph in West Virginia suggested that he might be able to win in the general election by attracting Catholics while holding on to enough Protestants to cobble together a majority.

Yet in the general election, Protestants vastly outnumbered Catholic voters, so winning a large percentage of Catholics while sparking a large Protestant defection would have led to disaster. Fortunately, data from the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan on religion and the 1960 election allow us to sharpen our analysis of the results from the general election. Lyman Kellstadt and Mark Noll have examined these data and drawn some conclusions about the effect of Kennedy’s Catholicism on the outcome.1 Kennedy carried 34% of the white Protestant vote. Interestingly, this is almost exactly the same percentage of the white Protestant vote that Adlai Stevenson carried in 1956, when Eisenhower obliterated him 57% to 42%. But Kennedy carried 83% of the Roman Catholic vote while Stevenson had carried just 45% in 1956.

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The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1- The Ghost of Al Smith 3
  • 2- The Lay of the Land 30
  • 3- First Skirmishes 52
  • 4- Preparing for Battle 81
  • 5- Mobilizing the Troops 101
  • 6- Guerrilla Warfare 123
  • 7- A Lion in a Den of Daniels 151
  • 8- The Endgame 177
  • Epilogue 200
  • Notes 207
  • Index 235
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