A national note from Kate Lunau about the Catholic vote. I wouldn’t hang my hat off every stat in this piece, but this nut graf seems both (a) significant and (b) consistent with other evidence.
This year’s results confirm the trend: outside Quebec, 49 per cent of Catholics who attend church weekly voted Conservative, compared to just 38 per cent in 2004.
In my book, which I won’t flog again (oh, all right; Merry Christmas), Harper Conservatives talked about moving the Roman Catholic vote as a central strategic goal of each of their models for the 2006 campaign: Nixon ’68, Thatcher ’79, Gingrich/Congressional Republicans ’94, John Howard ’97. Catholics are, among other things, a proxy for working-class families with higher-than-average numbers of children. Sometimes you make an essentially overt appeal, often by polarizing on the abortion question. Harper having eschewed that path, the other way is through economic policy: child tax credits, toolbelt tax credits and so on.
An odd thing: I made a concerted attempt to find out how the Conservatives measured the Catholic vote, how specifically they had sought to appeal to Catholics, and how much they thought they had managed to move it from 2004 to 2006. And, although the Conservatives were very cooperative in other ways for my book, they wouldn’t respond to these requests. I got the impression I was asking too much about a trade secret.
Anyway, they appear to be still at it. After the latest election I asked Alice over at Pundit’s Guide to do a special analysis, tracking vote share in the ridings outside Quebec that report the highest Catholic populations in census data. She sent me an Excel file with this result: of the 15 ridings outside Quebec with the highest proportion of Catholic voters, the Conservative share of the vote increased, between 2006 and 2008, in 11 of those ridings.