A new poll estimates that 74 percent of Catholic women plan to vote in next year’s congressional elections — and that although most of these women will vote Democrat, they’re not easily placed in one camp.
With the right kind of politician, these women could “turn the tide” in the mid-term elections, said the Rev. Matt Malone, editor-in-chief of America magazine.
“This is an important population,” Malone said. “You have a group of people here whose positions don’t necessarily line up in a straight way with either of the party’s platforms. That means that you have a population that are, to some degree, swing voters, and swing voters are the people that determine elections.”
The poll was the most comprehensive survey of American Catholic women, commissioned by Jesuit magazine America and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
More than 1,500 women participated.
The survey found that 41 percent of adult Catholic women in the United States are Democrats (another 18 percent lean Democrat) and that 24 percent are Republicans (another 14 percent lean Republican).
Overall, more Catholic women intend to vote for Democrats (55 percent) than Republicans (37 percent) in the congressional elections in November 2018.
In particular, an anti-abortion Democrat could be competitive in a congressional district with many Catholic women voters, Malone said.
“If you have a group that says they care about issues of life, that they care about the environment, care about helping the poor, that seems to be the recipe for a certain kind of pro-life Democrat,” Malone said.
In the survey, Republican women were more likely than others to say that protecting life was “very much” important to what it means to be Catholic, while Democratic women were more likely to say helping the poor was “very much” important.
Even if 40 percent of eligible Catholic women voted (a number closer to average turnout), that would make a voting bloc of 10.1 million. If 74 percent voted, that would be an estimated 18.7 million voters, according to the study.
While most of the respondents said their votes wouldn’t be affected by Catholic social teachings, the Pope, U.S. bishops or their pastor, many of the views important to them are issues of importance to the Catholic Church.
The top two issues were the environment (43 percent said church teaching on the issue was important and would affect voting) and abortion (42 percent). Other top issues included refugees, the death penalty, same-sex marriage and artificial birth control.
“My hope would be that people in the political arena see this population as a valuable constituency and a potentially very powerful one,” Malone said.