Poll: Hispanic Catholics back Clinton; white Catholics split over choices

| Mark Pattison | July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

Hispanic Catholics are solidly behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, while white Catholics are more closely split between Clinton and her presumed Republican challenger, Donald Trump.

The news comes from a poll released July 13 by the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life.

According to the poll, 77 percent of Hispanic Catholics are backing Clinton while 16 percent support Trump, with 5 percent either not sure or not saying.

White Catholics, meanwhile, shade toward Trump by a 50 percent-46 percent margin, according to Pew, with 4 percent undecided.

Among all Catholics, the edge goes to Clinton, 56-39, with 5 percent undecided or not knowing who to back.

In the overall poll, according to Pew, Clinton leads Trump 51 percent-42 percent.

Pew estimates that Catholics make up 20 percent of the electorate this year, 13 percent being white, 5 percent being Hispanic, and 2 percent being “other.”

By contrast, 21 percent of all voters are religiously unaffiliated, according to Pew. They are behind Clinton by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, 67 percent-23 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

Twenty percent of all voters are evangelical Protestants, 14 percent are mainline Protestants, 9 percent are black Protestants and 6 percent are “other” Protestants. The remaining body of voters comes to 11 percent.

In the poll, conducted in June, 75 percent of white evangelicals said they were supporting Trump, including 36 percent who said they were “strongly” supporting him — better numbers than 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney received in a similar poll in June 2012.

By comparison, 66 percent of the religiously unaffiliated voters said they were backing Clinton, slightly worse than the 68 percent who were behind President Barack Obama four years ago, and 26 percent strongly supporting her — well below the 37 percent who said in 2012 they strongly backed Obama.

Black Protestants also heavily back Clinton by an 89 percent-8 percent margin, with 4 percent undecided. Mainline Protestants, though, support Trump, 50 percent-39 percent, with 11 percent undecided.

One phenomenon examined in the Pew poll was whether a respondent’s choice more closely represented a vote for the candidate or a vote against the opposing candidate. Among the religiously unaffiliated, for examples, more of them who back Clinton said it was a vote against Trump, and more of them who back Trump called it a vote against Clinton.

Only Clinton-backing Protestants say their vote is more for Clinton than one against Trump, 19 percent-18 percent, and only because black Protestants do so by a 52 percent-34 percent margin — and that margin pales next to the 72 percent pro-Obama support given in 2012.

Among evangelicals, 42 percent said the choice between Trump and Clinton was hard because they thought neither one would make a good president. However, evangelicals who preferred Trump to Clinton how he would handle a wide variety of specific issues, from gun policy to the economy, terrorism, immigration and abortion.

Catholic satisfaction, or lack of it, with the candidates mirrors evangelical attitudes. Four years ago, 58 percent said they were very or fairly satisfied with the candidates as opposed to 39 percent who said they were “not too” or “not at all” satisfied. This year, 57 percent are not satisfied with the nominees, while only 40 percent are.

Seventy percent of Catholics say it is important that the president be religious. Those numbers are down from 73 percent in 2012 and 76 percent in 2008, a trend seen in other religious groups. Overall, just 62 percent of U.S. adults say it is important to them that the president have strong religious beliefs, down from 67 percent in 2012 and 72 percent in 2008.

Also trending downward is the percentage of those who believe houses of worship can contribute to solving social problems. Nationally, the numbers have declined 17 percent since 2008, from 75 percent to 58 percent. Among Catholics, it has shrunk from 79 percent to 63 percent — although Hispanic Catholics registered a six-point jump over the 2012 numbers, from 63 to 69 percent.

Among Catholics who say they go to Mass less than once a week, 56 percent back Clinton, compared to the 51 percent four years ago who backed Obama.

The survey interview 2,245 Americans by landlines and cellphones in June. The margin of error for the full survey is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points; for Catholics, the margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

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