Via faithful GR reader Jerry, MSNBC broke down the exit polls from the Wisconsin primary last night. It found interesting trends among Catholic voters. The most noteworthy statistic was that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama split the Catholic vote down the middle. Another interesting figure was that Clinton won narrowly among Catholics who attend Mass weekly (53 to 46), while Obama won narrowly among Catholics who don't (52 to 47).
Why are these statistics remarkable? Well, alas, MSNBC did not answer the question, as it provided only each demographic group's voting percentages.
But Jay Cost of RealClearPolitics answered one of the questions. He found that Catholics made a major shift toward Obama. Before the Wisconsin primary, Clinton had won Northern white Catholics by 26 percentage points. On Tuesday, she won them by only 2 percentage points.
That's a large drop off. In fact, Clinton's percentage among Catholic voters dropped off more than any other demographic. Her drop off among whites and blacks wasn't as severe. Her drop off among males and females wasn't as severe. Her drop off among union and non-union members wasn't as severe. If the exit polls of beer drinkers had been released, her drop among them also likely wouldn't have been as severe.
Why did Clinton lose about a quarter of her Catholic vote? So far, nobody has said. The Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe, and Chicago Tribune each failed to write about Clinton's decline among Catholic voters.
But it wasn't like reporters weren't warned. Yesterday, The Politico ran this quote from Charles Franklin, a University of Wisconsin political scientist:
Franklin noted that Catholics, who he said make up 37 percent of Wisconsin Democratic primary voters, will be a key constituency.
"Clinton desperately needs to hold on to the Catholic vote," he said, adding that Obama was well-served by getting staff on the ground and ads on the air before Clinton. "Voters in these late states are experiencing him up close for the first time."
Some reporter should find out the reasons for Clinton's big drop off among Catholics. This promises to be a fascinating story.
Whenever I write a post about Catholic voters, often a GR reader will question the assumption behind it. Catholics allegedly no longer vote as a bloc. Rising affluence, democracy, and education among Catholics are said to have homogenized them, making their decisions in the voting booths no different from that of typical Americans. Yet the results from the Wisconsin primary suggest that some Catholics do vote as a bloc.
Someone needs to get to the bottom of this.