President Trump won 52 percent of Catholic voters in 2016, versus 44 percent for Hillary Clinton, Pew Research estimates. Now, Trump is losing the Catholic vote to Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 12 percentage points, 52 percent to 40 percent, according to a poll released Tuesday by right-leaning EWTN News and RealClear Opinion Research.
Biden would be the second Catholic president, after fellow Democrat John F. Kennedy, but American Catholics are evenly divided between the Republican and Democratic parties. Democrat John Kerry, the last Catholic nominee, narrowly lost the Catholic vote to George W. Bush in 2004, exit polls found.
"Catholic voters have emerged as perhaps the key demographic cohort in the 2020 campaign," says RealClearPolitics' Carl Cannon. This year they are "increasingly non-white, trending more liberal in their younger ranks, and intensely concerned about jobs, the coronavirus, and health care." They also prefer Biden's policies over Trump's, 53 percent to 41 percent, and favor Biden's temperament, 59 percent to 33 percent, the poll found.
"Similar to national tracking polls, Biden's standing — in many cases, a 20-plus-point advantage — among Catholic women, Hispanics, independents, and voters under 55 (especially millennials and Gen Z) make it very challenging for Trump to narrow the gap in the final days," said John Della Volpe, who directed the poll. EWTN News notes that Biden's lead "narrows significantly in the swing states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin."
The poll also found that a 46 percent plurality of likely Catholic voters support the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative Catholic, while the rest are either opposed (28 percent) or don't have enough information to make a judgment (27 percent). Also, 45 percent of Catholic voters favor upholding Roe v. Wade, while 25 percent want all abortion outlawed and 18 percent want it left to the states. "There is no gender gap on this issue and it's worth emphasizing that support for keeping Roe is high even among Catholics who attend Mass daily," Cannon notes. "Simply put, this election isn't about abortion. It's about the economy and the coronavirus. It's a referendum."
The ETWN News-RealClear Opinion poll was conducted Oct. 4-11 among 1,490 likely Catholic voters contacted online in English and Spanish. It has a confidence interval of 2.79 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.