The New York Times exit poll from yesterday’s presidential election shows Republican candidate Donald Trump winning among Catholic voters 52-45 over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. This is a marked change from the 2012 presidential race, in which Democrat Barack Obama bested Republican Mitt Romney among Catholics 50-48. In 2016, not only did Catholic voters opt for the Republican over the Democrat, but the margin of victory was significantly larger this time around: Trump won Catholics by 7 points, whereas Obama won them by 2.
Some context, from the National Review:
Some of this swing might be accounted for by Clinton’s striking unpopularity compared with the high approval ratings Obama maintained throughout his campaigns and presidency. And though Trump has expressed vocal support for the pro-life movement and religious liberty, his track record on these topics is less clear. Given his history of supporting liberal Democrats and espousing progressive perspectives on everything from the economy to social issues, it is certainly not a given that he will act in favor of traditional Catholic objectives, at least on abortion, religious freedom, and marriage. Trump’s winning over of American Catholics in this election likely has less to do with Trump himself than it has to do with the poor treatment Catholics have received at the hands of the Obama administration and progressive elites. While many American Catholics have shown willingness in the past to support Democratic candidates regardless of their positions on social issues, perhaps the Obama administration and its progressive allies have taken things a bit too far. For example, on the very same day that Obama was inaugurated into his second term as president, his Health and Human Services department announced a mandate to be tacked onto Obamacare, requiring all employers to provide employees with contraceptive coverage, regardless of religious beliefs. His administration went on to enforce this mandate stringently against all groups, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic hospitals, Catholic schools, and evangelical business owners such as those who run Hobby Lobby. Throughout this process, the Obama administration showed little to no interest in compromise, developing a half-hearted method of “exempting” narrow classes of religious groups from the mandate, but even this exemption still forced countless religious people and groups to be involved in acts they believed to be immoral and unconscionable.