Catholic Voters and the 2012 Election

Understanding the breakdown of voters by religious affiliation

Oct 22, 2012— -- Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated will shape the 2012 elections, asserted a recent study. The 2012 American Values Survey reported that Catholics are experiencing a shift away from organized religion.

Likely Catholic voters were divided in their support for the two candidates – with 49 percent supporting President Barack Obama and 47 percent supporting Governor Mitt Romney.

Catholics are divided along ethnic lines between white (63 percent of Catholics) and Hispanics (29 percent of Catholics) over their support of the candidates.

Hispanic Catholics are more likely (70 percent) than white Catholics (48 percent) to have a favorable opinion of the president. On Romney, white Catholics are more likely to have a favorable opinion of the Republican challenger (54 percent) than Hispanic Catholics (27 percent).

According to the report, White Catholics are more supportive than Hispanic Catholics of both the death penalty (47 percent vs. 30 percent) and legal abortion (56 percent v. 43 percent).

Catholics and mainline Protestants remain two of the largest religious groups in the United States, but have seen their membership decline. Thirty-one percent of Americans reported being raised Catholic, but only 22 percent identify that way today. Similarly, about 1 in 5 white Americans were raised mainline Protestant, but only 1 in 8 continues to be today.

Meanwhile, religiously unaffiliated represent the fastest growing group, and – according to the report – are more complex than previously understood.

One in five Americans are religiously unaffiliated. They are also more likely to support Obama (73 percent) over Romney (22 percent). However, they are less likely to vote (61 percent) than those who are religiously affiliated (73 percent).

According to the report, Obama garnered overwhelming support among black Protestant likely voters (97 percent), religiously unaffiliated likely voters (73 percent), and non-Christian religious likely voters (76 percent).

Romney has overwhelming support among white evangelical Protestant likely voters (76 percent) and a slim majority (52 percent) of white mainline Protestant likely voters.