Back in 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney lost the Catholic vote by just 2 points, 50 percent to 48 percent. And the GOP has actually won the Catholic vote as recently as 2004 and in 5 of the last
1011 presidential elections. But Trump trails among Catholics by a huge margin. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute released this week shows him down 23 points, 55-32. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month painted an even worse picture for Trump’s Catholic support. He was down by 27 points, 61-34. …Catholics have long been a swing vote in presidential elections, and right now they’re swinging hard for Clinton. It’s also hard to overstate just how significant Trump’s poor performance among Catholics is. That’s because they comprise about one-quarter of voters in the United States (25 percent in 2012 exit polls) and are about as big a voting bloc as non-whites (28 percent) and independents (29 percent). …The reasons for Trump’s struggles among this group are open to interpretation. Perhaps Pope Francis’s criticism of Trump and Trump’s surprisingly confrontational response have turned off Catholics to Trump’s candidacy. As the Religion News Services’s John Gehring recently posited, it could also have something to do with Trump’s immigration policies:
Part of Catholics’ DNA is an appreciation for how Irish and other immigrants toiled and thrived in the shadow of a suspicious, fiercely anti-Catholic culture dominated by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. …
When Trump calls for a religious test for Muslims entering the country; questions the faith of Hillary Clinton, President Obama and Mitt Romney; and demonizes undocumented immigrants as “rapists,” it’s a reminder of the ugly nativism that Catholics once faced.
While this contemporary strain of old xenophobia is particularly felt by Latinos who increasingly are the face of the Catholic Church in the United States, many white Catholics surely take pride in family stories of grandparents and great-grandparents who were strangers in a new land. Trump has dug himself a deep hole he is unlikely to climb out of with these voters.