Don't Assume Catholics Are Big Supporters Of Bush Or His Agenda
It’s time to debunk another myth about the 2004 election: the support for Bush and his social agenda by American Catholics. A new Zogby poll done back in December finds that of those polled, Bush carried Catholics by only 5% over Kerry (48%-43%). The survey also found that amongst Catholics, Bush’s support was strongest in the 35-54 age group (52% for Bush, 40% for Kerry), and in the 55-69 age group (53%-41%). Kerry outpolled Bush amongst Catholics under 35 and 70 or over.
Like the rest of the electorate, turnout was the deciding factor in Catholic support. Kerry outpolled Bush amongst Hispanic Catholics by 45 points (70%-25%); yet Hispanic Catholics had a turnout 20% lower than white Catholics. And younger Catholics turned out far less than older Catholics, and it was this younger group that voted more strongly for Kerry over Bush. As a voting block, Catholics had a very large turnout in the 2004 election.
More revealingly, any conclusion that gay marriage or abortion were largely deciding factors in Bush’s favor amongst Catholics is wrong. According to Zogby’s results, when asked to decide which of four issues are most important in making a voting decision amongst American Catholics, abortion and gay marriage came in third and fourth.
When asked to rank the four issues in order of personal importance in making voting decisions, over 62% of American Catholics chose overcoming poverty as being either first or second in importance. Almost 59% ranked economic justice first or second. Abortion was chosen first or second in importance by just 39% of respondents, and same-sex marriage was ranked first or second by slightly over 25%.
And this same survey shows that Bush’s plan for privatizing Social Security is not supported by Catholics.
With President Bush calling for a major overhaul of Social Security, a majority of United States Catholics (83%) agree the government should guarantee income security for the elderly, with more than 47% calling for increased spending and 37% favoring current spending.
In light of the president’s recent recommendations for partial privatization of Social Security – where young workers would open and maintain their own personal accounts – nearly 60% of respondents “somewhat” or “strongly” disagreed with such plans for Social Security and Medicaid; while 36% felt government-controlled programs should be replaced with personal accounts.
"The fact that 83% of American Catholics polled believe that the government should guarantee income security for older citizens suggests that there will be considerable opposition to proposals to privatize Social Security," says Dr. Frank Ridzi, assistant professor of sociology at Le Moyne College. "For nearly all categories of age, gender, ethnicity, income level, and employment status, the majority of Catholics were opposed to replacing government programs such as Social Security and Medicare with individually managed accounts."
Yes, Bush’s push for privatization is the gift that keeps on giving.