Why? Because there isn’t one. Although lawsuits challenging the contraception mandate are separating the wheat from the chaff to some extent, as in the case of Notre Dame, CUA, et al, the amorphous population of Catholic voters has never been so difficult to define. Weighing in on MSNBC, our own editor R. R. Reno lamented the difficulty: “Catholicism tends to be a cultural-ethnic identity…but you want to think about Catholic voters in terms of intensity of their religion.” It has usually been understood that the Catholic vote was a rather significant portion of the voting bloc:
But to call the Catholic vote a pure bellwether would be a mistake; the determination of an individual’s vote is more likely in 2012 to turn on more common political variables (like income, education, or ethnicity) – than simple religious identity. “Catholicism was never as monolithic as its foes assumed,” said William Dinges, a professor of religion and culture at the Catholic University of America. “In many respects, Catholics are less distinguishable than they once were from other religious groups.”
Mark Stricherz at Catholicvote.org defines it as that which “mirrors the social teaching of the hierarchy, especially the American bishops: culturally conservative, economically populist or liberal, and moderate to liberal on foreign policy.” He wrote this a few months ago:
“Whatever their ideology (“social justice” or “social renewal”) or degree of religious observance (ex-Catholics, cafeteria Catholics, and confession-going Catholics), some Catholics vote as a bloc. You can see it in the votes of pro-life Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the voting patterns of regions such as southwestern Pennsylvania. What else besides Catholicism explains the pro-life votes cast by Democratic congressmen from South Boston, Rhode Island, and southwestern Chicago?”
Whether one agrees or disagrees, and there are good reasons to do both, Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review thinks we can’t deny that there is at least discernable Catholic voting behavior: Catholics are swing voters. This in contrast with Evangelicals, Jews, blacks, single women, etc. But Reno thinks this might not last much longer. If the Democratic party continues to be seen as generally hostile to persons of orthodox religious faith, there could be a significant transformation in the Catholic vote: “If there’s a shift of 10 percent in the way Catholics vote over a 10-year period, that could be very important.”
Read more here.