When you consider that the country's Catholic population includes a healthy number of culturally conservative Latinos, the fact that America's Catholics are slightly more liberal than their non-Catholic counterparts suggests that our white Catholic population is in fact fairly liberal. But press coverage discussing the "Catholic vote" invariably centers around discussions of white Catholics who attend church regularly, who are, unsurprisingly, conservative. But even then, church-going Catholics are still less conservative than church-going non-Catholics.
It's kind of annoying that the poll leaves out economic questions. Have we come to define Liberal/Conservative only in terms of social issues, or is there just so little space allowed in establishment discourse about economics that there's no point in asking?
I bet if you did include economic issues in the poll you would still see Catholic coming out more liberal than everyone else, maybe even more so than on social issues. The left-wing economic movement is pretty popular among Latinos, and I bet white Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, have a lot of connection to the labor movement (people like Thomas Geogaghan and Michael Moore come to mind).
The skewed perceptions of Catholic political leanings result from the focus on a few loudmouths (e.g., Donahue) as representative of American Catholics. This is highly misleading and frustrating to any Catholics that do not share their opinions. That a majority of devout Catholics approve of divorce and sex outside marriage is pretty telling of how far Catholic opinion strays from official doctrine.
I also find it frustrating that only sexuality gets defined as a "moral issue" in the media.
This has a lot to do with the South having relatively few Catholics. The numbers might look different if you excluded the mostly Protestant, mostly socially conservative South. It is hard to say much more without the regional breakdown.
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