Catholic for Choice has just released the results of a new national poll (pdf file) conducted for that group by Beldon Russonello Strategists. Key findings:
• 46 percent of Catholic voters support Clinton, while 40 percent support Trump.
• Latinos, Catholic women and Catholic millennials show the largest support for Clinton over Trump.
• Sixty percent of Catholic voters say that the views of the Catholic hierarchy are not important to them when they are deciding who to vote for in the presidential election.
• Six in ten Catholic voters do not feel an obligation to vote the way the bishops recommend.
• Sixty percent of Catholic voters say that abortion can be a moral choice.
• Seventy-two percent believe that abortion should be available to pregnant women who have contracted the Zika virus.
• Seventy percent of Catholics do not think that companies should be allowed to use the owner’s religious beliefs as a reason to deny services to a customer or employee.
Trump leads Clinton by 13 points among white Catholics, 50% for Trump to 37% for Clinton, but Trump trails by 41 points among Latinos, attracting only 22% of the Latino Catholic vote compared to 63% for Clinton.
Trump leads Clinton by 13 points among white Catholics: if these findings are correct, they blow out of the water the claim (based on other polls) that white Catholics are trending slightly in the direction of Hillary Clinton and away from Trump, don't they? And they lend weight to Jay Michaelson's insistence, citing Paul Weyrich on the origins of the religious-right alliance between the U.S. Catholic bishops and conservative white evangelicals, that "what really united Catholics and Evangelicals [as the religious right was formed] was opposition to civil rights."
Randall Balmer and others have done a very good job of showing us that the religious right found its feet in the period after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when white Southern evangelicals began deliberately dismantling public schools and setting up religious academies to thwart integration. What has not been pointed out so strongly, however, is that the Catholic bishops were also energized by a determination to resist the movement to assure the rights of African Americans.
If Weyrich and Michaelson are correct, the bishops' motivation in making common cause with conservative white evangelicals had much to do with opposition to civil rights for people of color. And the exceptionally strong support Donald Trump has enjoyed among white Catholics this election cycle is a shocking, disturbing testament to the bishops' lack of moral and pastoral leadership for decades now, and to the deeply entrenched racism of white Catholics in the U.S.
It should be noted that the polling data being published by Catholics for Choice were gathered in the first week or so of September, before the Trump-Clinton debate.