Signs of the Times

End of Catholic Vote’? Church Attendance May Predict Vote Better

The Catholic vote sought with such determination in this year’s presidential race went to President George W. Bush in about the same proportion as the rest of the country’s votes. As they study results from this year’s election, analysts are suggesting that the frequency with which people go to church may be a better predictor of how people vote than their religious affiliation.

In programs around Washington, D.C., in the days following the election on Nov. 2, political scientists, pollsters and journalists exercised a little 20/20 hindsight in explaining who voted how this year. Among the common themes of the sessions were the exit poll, which found that moral values was the most important issue for voters and that Bush’s stronger support came from those who attend church most frequently.


Exit polling done for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Media Research/Mitofsky International, found that 52 percent of Catholics voted for Bush and 47 percent voted for Democratic Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts. Bush was elected with 51 percent of the popular vote, compared with Kerry’s 48 percent.

"The idea that there is a Catholic vote was simply not borne out in this election," said John K. White, a professor of political science and head of the Life Cycle Institute at The Catholic University of America, in a program on Nov. 4. The gap seems to be between regular attendance at church and less regular attendance.

In Florida a significantly higher percentage of all Catholics voted for Bush than did the general electorate. There the overall vote was 52 percent for Bush and 47 percent for Kerry; but 57 percent of Catholics voted for Bush, compared with 42 percent for Kerry. Cuban Catholics were an important part of the Bush vote in Florida.

In other closely contested states, Catholics supported Bush by about the same margin as residents of their states overall, with perhaps a 1-percentage-point advantage given to Bush. That was the case in Ohio, where 51 percent of the total vote was for Bush and 52 percent of Catholics supported him, a difference that falls within the statistical margin of error for the poll.

Kerry received the votes of a majority of Catholics in Minnesota, although by a slightly lower percentage than the rest of the residents of the state who supported him. Minnesota overall went for Kerry by 51 percent to 48 percent. Catholics in the state supported Kerry by 50 percent to 49 percent.

But in New Mexico and Missouri, a greater percentage of Catholics voted for Kerry than did the state’s voters overall. In New Mexico, Bush won by 50 percent to 49 percent overall. Catholics voted for Kerry there by 61 percent to 38 percent. Hispanic Catholics in New Mexico were an important part of the Kerry vote. Missouri voters went for Bush by 53 percent to 46 percent. Among Missouri Catholics, the vote was 50 percent for Bush and 49 percent for Kerry.

White said with a few exceptions, differences in lifestyle, such as whether one is married or single and whether one has children or not, and cultural choices, such as what sort of movies one sees, are more useful in predicting how people will vote than are classic polling breakdowns by religion or ethnic group.

In this election, people of all faiths who go to church more than once a week, 16 percent of voters, voted for Bush by 64 percent to 35 percent. Those who described their church attendance as weekly, 26 percent of voters, voted for Bush by 58 percent to 41 percent.

Those who attend church monthly, 14 percent of voters, voted for Bush by 50 percent to 49 percent. Those who said they go a few times a year, 28 percent of voters, supported Kerry by 54 percent to 45 percent. People who said they never go to church, 15 percent, supported Kerry by 62 percent to 36 percent.

Analysts at the sessions pointed out that although news stories focused on the response that moral values was important to more voters than any other issue, it isn’t clear exactly what people meant by that answer. Moral values means something different to everyone in this room, said Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio in a post-election discussion at Georgetown University’s Law Center on Nov. 5. It’s more an all-encompassing catchphrase than anything.

Moral values was one response in a list of possible responses to exit pollsters. The largest group, 22 percent, picked moral values as their most important issue. Of those voters, 80 percent voted for Bush. The next most commonly picked issue was economy/jobs, which was chosen by 20 percent of voters, 80 percent of whom voted for Kerry. Other options on the list included terrorism and taxes, both chosen by more Bush voters. Iraq, health care and education were all chosen by more Kerry voters as their top priority.

A poll done by Zogby International for Pax Christi USA asked people which moral issue most influenced their vote. Nationally, the largest number said the war in Iraq, at 42 percent of respondents overall and 41percent of Catholic respondents. Other was the next most chosen category nationally, followed by abortion, named by 12.8 percent overall and 17.2 percent of Catholics.

Fabrizio and the Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen said the polls they had been doing throughout the campaign had a similar list, including moral values, and neither of them was surprised by the outcome of the exit poll. Despite that, Schoen said the Democratic Party never really took advantage of data reflecting voter interest in values to use moral terms in describing the party’s core issues, like caring for the poor, health care and protecting the environment. The Democrats have to do what the Bush-Cheney campaign did, Schoen said: Frame social issues in values terms.

Italians to Accept,’ Not Take’ Each Other

Italian brides and grooms marrying in Catholic churches will no longer take each other as husband or wife, but will accept each other. This small change of wording emphasizes the fact that the other is a gift, not something that one takes of one’s own accord, said the Rev. Sergio Nicolli, director of the Italian bishops’ office for the family. The change goes into effect on the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 28, with other changes in the rites and rituals for the sacrament of matrimony approved by the Italian bishops.

Some of the changes, Father Nicolli said, were the result of a deeper theological understanding, while others were motivated by cultural changes, including the fact that while the vast majority of Italians are baptized Catholics, very few attend Mass regularly. Catholic brides or grooms who are not regular churchgoers or those marrying a non-Catholic are encouraged to use the option of a marriage rite with the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word, not a full Mass, so that a spouse not able to receive Communion is not put in a situation of difficulty, he said.

Two new options are offered within the celebration of a wedding Mass. First, the Catholic bride and groom may begin their procession to the altar from the baptismal font holding lighted candles. This emphasizes the strict connection between marriage and one’s baptismal vocation, he said. The second optionthe recitation of a litany of saints before the vows are exchangedalready is used in many countries, he said. As at a priest’s ordination, the couple can call on the assistance of the whole church, including the saints in heaven, to help them live their vocation faithfully, Father Nicolli said.

News Briefs

The Diocese of Spokane will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the end of November, Bishop William S. Skylstad announced. It is the third diocese to do so as a consequence of lawsuits by people who say they were sexually abused by priests. In the end, Chapter 11 gives everyone a sense of finality and closure with fairness, justice and equity, Skylstad said in a news conference. Valid claims will be settled. The diocese will continue its ministry.

Ground was broken for a $50 million 30,000-square-foot addition for St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University. Kerry Robinson, Yale’s director of development, credited the idea for an addition to the existing center to the vision of former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent Jr., a Yale graduate.

In Baghdad, Iraq, car bombs went off at two Orthodox churches and at St. John’s Chaldean Catholic Church on Nov. 8. Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad said, This is the third time our churchesCatholic or Orthodoxhave been attacked.

A judge overseeing some 160 lawsuits in northern California over sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy has decided clergy personnel files that are made available to plaintiffs’ attorneys will remain confidential unless they are introduced as evidence at a trial. Rejecting motions for public disclosure filed by several news organizations, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ronald M. Sabraw also ruled that the names and backgrounds of the plaintiffs in the cases should remain confidential.

Jean-Louis Tauran, a former Vatican foreign minister, said the preamble to the new European Union Constitution should have included some recognition of the role of religion in Europe’s history. The constitution itself is a good text, Cardinal Tauran told students at The Catholic University of America on Nov. 3. The problem has been with the preamble.

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