Gallup on Catholic Vote: Where’s the “Wedge?”

You may remember a lot of excited talk earlier this year about the Obama’s administration’s “war on religion” generating a major Catholic backlash that would cost him the election. Matter of fact, you still hear the talk, as evidenced by an April 24 Alexander Bolton piece in The Hill with this ledge:

President Obama has seen his standing among Catholic voters, a crucial segment of the electorate, slip in recent weeks, and a looming confrontation with Catholic activists could make it worse.

Democrats want voters this year to focus on what they have branded a war on women, but the flip side of the debate — the so-called war on religion — is not going away anytime soon.

Bolton reached this conclusion, as it happens, by talking to virtually every blatantly pro-Republican self-styled representative of Catholics he could find, and the “slippage” for Obama he reported was actually just a boost in the minority percentage of Catholics perceiving the Democratic Party as hostile to religion–a response to all the polarizing conservative messaging among Catholics already in the GOP column.

But the latest Gallup report on Catholic voters, out just yesterday, shows that they are, as they have generally been recently, an almost perfect mirror of national opinion on the two parties’ presidential candidates, with no “wedge” in sight:

Obama led Romney by one percentage point, 46% to 45%, among the more than 8,000 registered voters interviewed as part of Gallup Daily tracking conducted April 11-30. Among the 1,915 Catholics interviewed during that time, support for Obama and Romney was almost the same, with 46% support for Obama and 46% for Romney.

Predictably, Obama has a sizable advantage among Hispanic Catholics and a smaller disadvantage among white Catholics (magnified by their larger numbers). Nothing’s changed much at all since 2008 other than the slight decline in Obama’s support levels that’s evident in all voter groups:

The overall Catholic vote so far this year is similar to what it was in 2008, when Gallup’s final survey before the election found that Catholics’ slim support for Obama over Republican candidate John McCain almost identically matched the overall national vote.

Sometimes you’ll read stuff on this subject that tries to make it out that “real” Catholics (i.e., those who attend church more often or who agree with the Vatican on controversial issues) or alternatively “swing vote” Catholics (code for white Catholics, who are presumed to be free of those messy ethnic prejudices that incline Hispanics to vote Democratic) are on the march into the GOP column. But even Republicans haven’t devised a way to give extra weight to the votes of people whose religious authenticity they deem superior, so at this point the Catholic “wedge vote” in 2012 remains a fantasy.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.