April 3, 2007
by John Green, Senior Fellow, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
White non-Hispanic Catholics have become a key swing vote in recent national elections. According to the 2004 exit polls, 56% of this group voted for George W. Bush and 43% voted for John F. Kerry. In 2006, the exit poll found that 49% of white Catholics voted for Republican congressional candidates, compared to 50% who supported Democratic candidates.
What are the candidate preferences of white Catholics at this early stage of the 2008 presidential campaign? The Pew Forum's analysis of findings from a recent survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press provides an interesting early reading on this group, which constitutes about one-fifth of registered voters in this survey.
Hillary Clinton is the first choice of one-in-three among white Catholic Democrats and Democratic leaners. Al Gore and John Edwards are each the first choice of roughly one-in-five among this group. Barack Obama is the first choice of roughly one-in-eight.
Obama is the second choice of one-quarter of white Catholics and Edwards is the second choice of about one-fifth. Clinton is the second choice of 17% of white Catholics and Al Gore is the second choice of 14%.
The other candidates have very modest support among white Catholics at this point in the campaign.
See a comparison of white Catholic Democrats and other Democrats in the survey
Among white Catholic Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters, Rudy Giuliani is the first choice of nearly two-fifths of respondents. John McCain is the first choice of roughly one-quarter of white Catholics. Giuliani and McCain are tied as the second choice, each drawing about one-quarter of this group. None of the other Republican candidates is the first choice of more than one-tenth of white Catholics.
See a comparison of white Catholic Republicans and other Republicans in the survey
Religion & Politics '08, a new feature of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, also offers analyses of survey data on white evangelical Republicans and white mainline Protestants, both Democratic and Republican. The survey did not include enough evangelical Democrats, seculars or members of other religious groups to permit statistically valid analysis of their views.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a nationwide sample of 1,503 adults, 18 years of age or older, from March 21-25, 2007. (More details on the survey, including a discussion of candidate preferences among the public as a whole as well as additional methodological details and exact question wording.)
Respondents were asked to pick their first and second choices for the presidential nominations from separate, randomly ordered, lists of eight Democrats (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Gore, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson) and nine Republicans (Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter and Tommy Thompson).