WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Catholics are the ultimate swing voters. No other large group has switched sides so often -- or been so consistently aligned with election winners. Catholics have backed the winner of the national popular vote for the last nine presidential elections: they've helped elect five Republican presidents, three Democratic presidents, and the popular-vote-winning but presidency-losing Democrat Al Gore.
Not only because of their winning track record, but also because they make up nearly a quarter of all registered voters in the United States, Catholics could determine who wins the White House in 2008.
That's why I'm curious to hear what young, traditional Catholics -- Generations X and Y -- think of Sarah Barracuda. Is Palin winning their support?
Thomas N. Peters posted that question online at AmericanPapist.com, winner of "Best Political/Social Commentary Site" in the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards. Peters, 23, who runs the site, has appeared on CNN, BBC World News, and The Today Show. AmericanPapist.com attracts visitors who are disproportionally in their 20s, and disproportionally traditional in their religious beliefs.
"My poll saw a 19% net increase in support for Sen. John McCain because of his choice of Gov. Sarah Palin," Peters told OffTheBus. "Plenty of my Catholic friends got swept up in palinmania. Many had pro-Palin Facebook statuses the day of the announcement, and even more had pro-Palin Facebook statuses after her convention speech. It's nice to have an attractive figurehead for our ideals, as opposed to someone from our grandparents' generation."
With 605 votes tallied after Palin was chosen to be McCain's running mate, here is the breakdown among mostly 20-something Catholics who adhere to the moral teachings of the pope:
-- 68.4% continue to support McCain
-- 20.5% now support McCain
-- 6.3% continue to not support McCain
-- 3.3% remain undecided
-- 1.5% now do not support McCain
Here is a sampling of responses from that poll:
The hand that rocks the cradle can also rock the boat.
--elm | 08.29.08 - 11:10 am
I'm not worried about her lack of experience. Biden only emphasizes Obama's lack of experience.
--JennE inCA | 08.29.08 - 12:03 pm
Obama's big theme in the primaries was that he was going to "clean up Washington" and he's not "an insider" and it won't be "politics as usual" if he's elected. With this pick of Palin, I don't think Obama will be able to successfully run on that theme. This will be fun!
--Mark | Homepage | 08.29.08 - 1:29 pm
If Sen. McCain's selection of Gov. Palin inspires just one woman to choose life over abortion ... then the nomination of Gov. Palin will have been a thundering success.
--brassband | 08.30.08 - 7:22 am
Sarah would be doing far more good for the country by taking care of her kids! The work that she will be doing could be done better by a man -- or by a woman who has no small children to raise.
--AnUnSi | 08.30.08 - 8:14 am
A WOMAN? No thank you. Too radical for my tastes.
--JhN | 08.30.08 - 12:50 pm
Can you imagine the picture McCain and Palin are going to make? Like a father and a daughter. The strong father handing down a legacy and teaching a woman, instead of the usual "son."
--Vonda | 09.01.08 - 3:45 am
Palin Versus Biden
Palin was baptized a Catholic, but today she is an Evangelical Christian who agrees with the Catholic pope on three issues of major importance to Catholic social doctrine: she is pro-life, opposes gay-marriage, and supports school-choice. (Her parents left the Catholic church when she was very young.)
Like most self-identifying American Catholics, Biden is a cafeteria Catholic, meaning he picks and chooses which church doctrine to follow. Biden favors abortion on demand, advocates gay civil-unions, and opposes school-choice. He is not officially permitted to receive communion in a Catholic church, and some bishops have warned him not to present himself at the communion rail.
In 2004, a handful of Catholic bishops similarly denounced John Kerry for his pro-abortion-rights position. Kerry lost white Catholics -- who make up the vast majority of the Catholic community -- to Bush, 56 percent to 43 percent.
Nearly half of all Hispanic Catholics fall in the 20-something age group. They oppose abortion and same-sex marriage more strongly than other Catholics.
"I think it's fair to say that most traditional Catholics are wary of an America being shaped by poor or deficient public policy, and Palin is music to their ears," Peters told OffTheBus.
In a Zogby International poll conducted just after McCain announced Palin would join the ticket, McCain/Palin won 47.1 percent while Obama/Biden won 44.6 percent. Pollster John Zogby: "Clearly, Palin is helping the McCain ticket. She has high favorability numbers, and has unified the Republican Party. The striking thing here in this poll is that McCain has pulled ahead among Catholics by double-digits."