Catholics are increasingly being viewed as an influential swing vote that could help determine the next election, according to Religion Link (July 17), a news service for religion reporters. In the 2004 elections, Catholics surprised analysts by backing a Republican evangelical Protestant over John Kerry, the first Catholic candidate since John F. Kennedy Jr. But a Gallup Poll in June showing Catholics backing Democrats by an 11-point margin suggests that the Catholic vote is anything but settled. With the November 2006 elections in sight, observers view the Catholic vote as being influential in determining whether Democrats can gain a majority in Congress.
Political analysts see two issues that may determine the Catholic vote: abortion and immigration. The Latino Catholic support for immigration policy liberalization is a “minefield” for Republicans. With Latinos making up a large and growing segment of the Catholic community and church activists and leaders on the frontlines of this cause (several bishops have vowed civil disobedience if some of the stricter Republican proposals become law), immigration is likely to be a centerpiece of the Catholic vote. The abortion issue is more complex, but the last election’s conflict between dissenting Catholic politicians and church leaders threatening to withhold communion to those taking up pro-choice positions is likely to remain a factor in the Catholic vote.