Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Democratic Strategists Issue Memo on Loss of Catholics

April 12, 2005
Volume 2, Number 36

A memo authored by a prominent Democratic strategy organization calls the decline in support of white Catholics for Democrats "striking" and "a big part of the 2004 election story." One of the analysis' key findings is that Catholic voters are becoming more pro-life which the authors called "a factor in the recent losses and one of the blockages for Democrats, at least in the Midwest." The data also reveals that young Catholics are more pro-life than their parents and that bishops who speak out against pro-abortion politicians help bolster the pro-life vote.

The abortion issue is particularly potent for a group called "Democratic defectors" who either identified themselves as Democrats or voted for Bill Clinton in 1996 but voted for President Bush in the last election. Among this group, "26 percent believe that abortion should be illegal in all cases, nearly three times the number for all Catholic Democrats."

The memo was issued by Democracy Corps, a research and tactical advice organization founded by Democrat strategy virtuosos James Carville, Stanley Greenberg and Bob Shrum. Titled "Reclaiming the White Catholic Vote," it is based on data from a nationwide survey of more than a 1,000 white Catholic voters. The decline in the white Catholic vote has been steady over the last decade. Clinton won it by seven percentage points; Al Gore lost it by seven points; and Sen. John Kerry lost it by 14 points. The data provided in the report provides a fascinating window into the much discussed Catholic vote and makes it clear Democrats are losing ground because of their stance on a range of cultural issues.

It turns out that one of the most contentious and visible issues in the 2004 election, the denial of the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians, did not hurt the pro-life side as many said it would. The poll found that when white Catholics were asked whether or not they were more or less likely to vote for a Democrat that "is denied communion by the area's bishop for voting to support abortion rights" 49 percent said they were less likely while 33 percent said they were more likely.

The memo also made it clear that the abortion issue is not going away. "Although the pro-life position is strongest among seniors, Catholics current pro-life position does not appear likely to lessen with time. While middle-age Catholics lean toward keeping abortion legal, voters under 30 are more pro-life: 53 percent believe abortion should be illegal in most cases." The pro-life position could be a winning one for Democrats according to the study. Fifty-nine percent of white Catholics say they are more likely to support a Democratic candidate who is pro-life and 35 percent say they are less likely, giving a pro-life Democrat a 24 point advantage. Even on the East Coast where Catholics are less pro-life, a pro-life Democrat has a 12 point advantage over a pro-abortion candidate.

The memo advises Democrat candidates to get around the issue by presenting themselves as one who "[b]elieves in a woman's right to choose but believes all sides should come together around the common goal of preventing and reducing the number of abortions, with more sex ed, including abstinence, access to contraception and more adoption." This common ground approach is reminiscent of a recent speech given by New York Senator and likely presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in which she softened her approach to abortion by calling it a "tragic choice." In the speech she said faith-based abstinence should be embraced but also called on increased funding for "family planning services," a euphemism for contraception, abortifacients and abortions.

Copyright 2005---Culture of Life Foundation. Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.

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