AUSTIN, Texas – President Bush not only boosted his support from evangelical Protestants, but also won a majority of Roman Catholic voters against Democratic rival John Kerry, who is Catholic, according to a new study of the 2004 race.
His showing among Catholics is seen by some analysts as a potentially significant shift for a group that long has been a bedrock Democratic constituency.
Political science professor John Green of the University of Akron, who has studied religion and politics, cited Bush’s opposition to gay marriage and abortion as likely reasons for the president’s gains.
Also during the campaign, several Catholic bishops objected to Kerry’s support of abortion rights and said they would deny Communion to politicians who favor abortion rights.
The post-election survey of voting behavior and religious faith was conducted by the University of Akron and sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
“The American religious landscape was strongly polarized in the 2004 presidential vote and more so than in 2000,” the survey concluded.
The division among Catholics underscored that among non-Hispanic Catholics, 72 percent of “traditionalists” and 55 percent of “centrists” favored Bush. About 69 percent of liberal or “modernist” Catholics went for Kerry.
Overall, Catholics backed Bush 53 percent to Kerry’s 47 percent.
Evangelical Protestants, a key part of Bush’s political base, gave him three-quarters of their vote, the survey found.
His biggest gain came from Hispanic Protestants, who moved from the Democratic column in 2000 to the Republican side last year. Bush attracted two-thirds of Hispanic Protestants – a 31 percent gain from four years earlier.
White House political adviser Karl Rove targeted Hispanics as a potential source of growth for the GOP.
Among the electorate at large, foreign policy and the economy were the most important issues. Bush voters, by contrast, cited social issues as most important.
Green said the Rove blueprint to boost Bush’s evangelical vote by 4 million votes “by in large succeeded.”
“Between 2000 in 2004, which had a very high turnout, there was a big surge of evangelicals,” he said.