Breaking Political Stories and Commentary. "We're at the height of the Roman Empire for the Republican Party, but the tide slowly but surely goes out." --Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
Last week, we had some discussion regarding Senator Kerry, his Catholicism, and whether American catholics would support him. Yesterday, two polls came out showing that Catholics favor Kerry over Bush, at least for now. I've left the second ABC poll out of these snippets, but its results are similar. Both polls are off white Catholics, but the Senator's support among non-white Catholics has always been higher anyway.
A Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday has Kerry winning among white Catholics 50%-43%--a huge change from the October 3 poll which had Bush leading 49% to 33%.

Kerry's favorable vs. unfavorable rating among white Catholics before the debates was 36% vs. 50%. After the debate: 50% vs. 41%. Kerry improved across the board, but the shift was more stark for white Catholics than just about any other group the poll measured. (By comparison, his standing among women improved from 41% favorable vs. 42% unfavorable up to 53% vs. 38% after the debate.)
Of course, the debates helped Kerry across the board, so it's not surprising that it boosted him among white Catholics. On the other hand, it did boost him more among white Catholics than with non-Catholics.
Catholics represent about one in four voters and, more important, are disproportionately found in key battleground states like Pennsylvania (30%), New Jersey (45.9%), Ohio (28%), Michigan (28%), Wisconsin (34.4), Minnesota (28.7%), and New Hampshire (38.2%).
Well, this is what matters, and tells you why both Kerry and Bush care so much about those Catholic votes. I would think there are also a lot of latino Catholics in Florida, but I don't know how dominated that group is by Republican leaning Cuban-Americans.
[A] possible explanation is that the criticisms of Kerry by conservative Catholic bishops have backfired. The question in the third debate that prompted Kerry's response was about the charge from Bishop Charles J. Chaput of Colorado that voting for Kerry was a "sin" because he is pro-choice on abortion.

A narrow majority of Catholics are pro-choice on abortion and may take it personally when Kerry is told that he's a bad Catholic because he's pro-choice.
This is precisely what we were discussing last week: whether Kerry's standing with Catholic voters was hurt when some conservative biships decided to criticize him. The counter intuitive hypothesis put forward here says that exactly the opposite happened. If true, that's interesting. The Catholics I've known have as much a cultural identity as a religious one, and I could see responding negatively when a conservative bishop started telling me who and who wasn't one of my people -- especially if I realized I might be the next person the bishop singled out.
The third debate may also have helped Kerry among white Catholics simply because he was prompted to connect his Catholic faith to something positive. "My faith affects everything that I do, in truth. There's a great passage of the Bible that says, 'What does it mean, my brother, to say you have faith if there are no deeds? Faith without works is dead'.... That's why I fight against poverty. That's why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this earth. That's why I fight for equality and justice. All of those things come out of that fundamental teaching and belief of faith. But I know this, that President Kennedy in his inaugural address told all of us that here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own. And that's what we have to--I think that's the test of public service."
I think Kerry does a great job talking about something where he often sounds uncomfortable: how religion shapes his views. I live in the Northeast, and we really are more private in our religious observation. Kerry finds in genuinely difficult to talk about religious in the way that would seem normal to many people in the South, and parts of the Midwest. I think Kerry succeeds here, which may be a reason Catholics are moving toward him.

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