The post below, Why are Catholics Democrats?, has prompted a great deal of discussion. Some of it quite interesting, though I disagree with the general thrust of the commentary. What I disagree with is that there is something fundamental about the ideology of the Roman Catholic Church which makes it congenial to the ethos of the Democratic party. I am aware of the “seamless garment” promoted by many Catholics, but I do not believe that it is fundamentally Roman Catholic. Additionally, I do not think that the church influences American Catholics much, as is evident by their general lack of difference from the Protestant population on attitudes toward abortion or birth control. Instead of something fundamental about Catholicism, I think there are many historically contingent processes at work which result in the demographic differences we see today. Of course, I may be wrong. But theories about how the ideological basis of a religion has particular concrete consequences have generally not panned out, consider Max Weber’s assertion that Confucian societies were not favorable toward the emergence of capitalism (Weber’s earlier work on the Protestant ethic has been called into question in any case, the wealthiest modern German state is staunchly Catholic Bavaria).
The American National Election Study has some data on 2008 presidential results. I decided to do the following:
1) Limit the sample to those who voted for John McCain
2) Limit that sample to Catholics and Protestants
3) Then query the sample by a range of variables
The results are below. I offered many variables because the sample sizes are small, so I’m looking for consistent trends. The main point that seems obvious is that Roman Catholics who voted for John McCain are simply less conservative than Protestants who voted for John McCain. They do not seem to exhibit a “Catholic” profile, whereby they are more conservative on social issues than their fiscal moderation may have predicted. Rather, they’re more liberal about abortion and gay marriage than Protestants.