WASHINGTON – Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne predicted that Latino voters will help Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton win the Catholic vote by a substantial margin.
“We can be pretty sure right now that Hillary Clinton will carry the Catholic vote. We can be almost positive unless some very strange thing happens in the next week. …Hillary Clinton will carry the Catholic vote by a substantial margin and Latinos will be key to that,” Dionne said Wednesday during a Catholic Vote in 2016 discussion held by Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the National Press Club.
“I think one of the things we need to think about, looking at these numbers, is whether Catholics in many ways are like all other Americans right now, which is ideology trumps religious — ideology trumps people’s faith traditions,” he added.
Clinton supports a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion while the Catholic Church holds a pro-life position and opposes abortion. Trump has said he will nominate Supreme Court justices who oppose abortion and has argued that the abortion issue should be decided by individual states.
Stephen Schneck, director of Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, said Clinton is likely to win more Catholic votes than Democratic candidates in recent presidential elections.
“Latino Catholics are supporting Secretary Clinton in numbers actually significantly higher than went for Democrats in these past elections. The upshot is that at least, at last, polling – and of course things have been fluid – but at least, at last, polling, Catholics appeared to be moving to the Democratic column more strongly than they have in recent elections, meaning that Secretary Clinton is likely to win the support of voters who are Catholic,” he said.
Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, said Pope Francis is “the one” Latinos have been waiting for because he is speaking to issues of equity, social justice and the environment.
Kumar said GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s strong stance against illegal immigration and his critical comments of the pope’s immigration position have not helped him with Latino voters. Specifically, Kumar said Latinos took issue with Trump’s response to the pope questioning his Christian faith for wanting to build a wall on the border to stop illegal immigration.
Trump accused the Mexican government of “using the pope as a pawn.”
“They should be ashamed of themselves, especially when so many lives are involved and illegal immigration is rampant and bad for the United States,” he said.
Kumar said many young Latino voters are concerned about “social safety nets” in addition to immigration policy so they are leaning toward the Democratic ticket.
“That’s because if their parents all of a sudden get sick or don’t have that social safety net, they’re expect to take on that role for their families,” Kumar said. “So in the event that an older person got sick on the job, were they going to have the basic care that they needed? Those are usually reflected in older Americans around 45 to 50 that have to care for parents as they age.”
Cokie Roberts, commentator for ABC News, said Jewish voters have cited social justice as the most important issue to them in past elections. In the current election cycle, Roberts said Catholics who cite social justice as the most important issue is an “embarrassingly” high number.
“When you do surveys of Jewish voters, they hardly ever, like 4 percent say Israel matters and actually – I just looked at the numbers. The numbers that say social justice is the most important thing is embarrassingly high for Catholics, I have to say, as a Catholic married to a nice Jewish boy for 50 years, literally,” she said. “So if young Latinos start becoming those social justice Catholics that’s not only a good thing in terms of representing the church more thoroughly but also keeping the church alive because the Pew [Research] numbers on people who left Catholicism are shocking.”