Catholic Voting in the United States

by Marc Schulman

Catholic voters used to be traditional Democratic voters. However, since President Reagan was elected Catholics have become swing voters. Some years they support the Democratic candidate, and some years they support the Republican nominee.



Catholics have traditionally been supporters of the Democratic Party. That support goes all the way back to the 1840's. Early Catholic immigrants became Democratic supporters when the "Know Nothing"and "Whig" parties took strongly anti-immigrant stances. Strong Catholic support for the Democratic parties strengthened further when the Democratic Party nominated Al Smith, the first Catholic Presidential candidate. Franklin Delano Roosevelt received overwhelming Catholic support. The election of President Kennedy, the first Catholic President, seemed to solidify Catholic support for the Democrats.

President Reagan went after "Blue-Collar" Democrats. Reagan managed to draw a large number of Catholic votes. In subsequent years, abortions became a large wedge issue. The strong Republican "Pro-Life", anti-abortion stance, matches that of the official position of Catholic Church. As a result, additional White Catholics have begun to vote for Republicans.


More recently, Catholic voters have been swing voters in American Presidential elections. In the past few Presidential elections Catholics have voted in small pluralities for both the Republican and the Democratic candidates. Catholic voters include many Hispanics and other minorities, who tend to vote Democratic. At the same time, White Catholic voters have favored Republican Candidates in the past few elections.