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Also also from the magazine: Here’s something for Liberals to deny and ignore


 

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.

UPDATE: See how the headline talks, a bit obliquely, about Liberal denial? It’s like I know these guys. Ahem. Stéphane Dion: “You see, the Catholics can be relied on to vote Liberal, always…” (h/t)


 

Also also from the magazine: Here’s something for Liberals to deny and ignore

  1. But how much is the church-going aspect of Catholicism declining? is this the right wagon to hitch a demographic star to?

  2. Lot of bad science here.

  3. Glad I’m of the non-practicing variety.

  4. Paul, do you know if Angus Reid is polling people who actually attend church once a week or people who say they attend church once a week? Studies have found a huge difference between these two.

    Notice the Ontario NDP insisted on “saving the Lords Prayer” in Parliament. Every one, but the Liberals it would seem, is courting the religious vote these days whether it is with cash in hand or token symbolism.

  5. Paul,

    On a quasi-related note, any thoughts on the links between immigrants and religion? Every once in a while, I read or hear about immigrants arriving in a country and reviving a certain religion. One example was in the UK, where eastern European immigrants (mostly Catholic and Orthodox) caused a resurgence in those faiths, while the Anglican churches are struggling with declining attendance.

    Most recently, yesterday CBC Radio discussed how an influx of Catholic immigrants from the Philippines into Qatar has forced that largely Muslim country to adjust.

    This not only forces such communities to accommodate the new/resurgent religious groups, but might also affect political attitudes, as these new immigrants become new voters. Perhaps Tory success with the immigrant vote is also linked with their success with the religious vote?

  6. This is interesting because through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, the Catholic/Prot split was the single greatest determinor of vote in Canada, even excluding Quebec. It cut across every other line you could think of (income, union membership etc.) – Catholics tended to vote Liberal and Protestants tended to vote conservative. And that was that.

    The only exception was BC where there always seemed to be NDP-Conservative races, so union membership was more important.

    If this has broken down that is a) significant and b) about bloody time

  7. Hi Chris,

    Except in PEI, and eastern Ontario, and southern Nova Scotia, etc…

  8. Yawn

  9. Canadians have experienced the politics of language, nation, and ethnicity these past four decades.
    Why would we not now experience the politics of religion. It is a perfect cleavage for Harper to exploit.
    Why would or should we be surprised that PM Harper is also practicing the politics of religion!
    This is not rocket science!! Paul Wells was correct in questioning CP strategists about the role of Catholicism in their attempts to grow the base of Harper’s new Conservative Party. They were also smart not to answer him.
    The majority of practicing Catholics in Canada are very conservative Catholics and they have much in common with Protestant fundamentalist Christians. Catholics of a liberal persuasion have gone the way of the dodo bird.
    Furthermore, there is also a close link between Catholicism and ethnicity – as there once was for French-Canadian and Acadian Catholics – that the Harper strategists are counting on and successfully exploiting to the max.
    Many of the African and Asian immigrants are Catholic, many of them refugees from anti-Catholic regimes. It is probably easier to recruit these immigrants into the CP fold via their religious affiliations and concerns rather than simply on the basis of ethnicity.
    Harper is a practicing Protestant Christian and his ‘moral’ take on social issues, as well as on the reasons for the global economic collapse, are very appealing to those Canadians for whom morality and faith dominate their lives.
    Catholics, who had always preferred the Liberals, ended the long rule of Ontario Bill Davis’ ‘governing’ party in 1985 when their rapidly growing numbers gave them the upper hand in many constituencies.
    Premier Davis, out of desperation, tried to recruit Catholic voters by extending full public funding for Catholic separate schools but the decision came too late to save the government and was strongly opposed and challenged by old line Tories all the way to the Supreme Court.

  10. Davey,
    I am not saying EVERY catholic voted liberal. Just if you were looking for the number one predictor in Canada, it was religion. Except BC. This was the consistent finding for 25 years of the National Election Study.

  11. The article in question shifts focus from ‘Catholics’ as making up almost half the population to ‘Catholics who attend church on a weekly basis’ who shifted away from the Liberals by a few percentage points. That’s already pretty dubious.

    We might be mistaking correlation for causation here…

    The overall point that the Liberals shouldn’t be taking ANY group of voters for granted stands, though.

  12. I think Terry Mattingly from the blog GetReligion.org, which comments on shoddy religious coverage is helpful here. He is American, but I think this all holds true north of the border as well.

    * Ex-Catholics. Solid for the Democrats. GOP has no chance.

    * Cultural Catholics who may go to church a few times a year. This may be an undecided voter — check out that classic Atlantic Monthly tribes of American religion piece — depending on what is happening with the economy, foreign policy, etc. Leans to Democrats.

    * Sunday-morning American Catholics. This voter is a regular in the pew and may even play some leadership role in the parish. This is the Catholic voter that is really up for grabs, the true swing voter that the candidates are after.

    * The “sweats the details” Roman Catholic who goes to confession. Is active in the full sacramental life of the parish and almost always backs the Vatican, when it comes to matters of faith and practice. This is where the GOP has made its big gains in recent decades, but it is a very small slice of the American Catholic pie.

  13. I bet the catholic/protestant split became a far less decisive factor when the NHL expanded and the Leafs/Habs rivalry became less of a national focus.

  14. All together now:

    THANK YOU WARREN KINSELLA!

    Thank you for delivering hundreds of thousands of votes to the Conservative Party of Canada with your Barney stunt.

    Catholics as bulwark against Marxism, who would have thunk?

    If you love freedom, hug a Catholic today. They are the only thing standing between you and a $15 billion dollar carbon tax.

    “But how much is the church-going aspect of Catholicism declining?”

    Had you stepped into a Catholic church recently you’d notice a dramatic difference in the demographic makeup compared to, say, 25 years ago. We’re importing Christians, hard core Christians, faster than Catholics stop going to church, and a lot of the clergy are visible minorities. Bonus: hating Catholics is now anti-immigrant!

    The antipathy of today’s Liberal Party and its supporters towards Catholics and Christians in general is so over the top that it was inevitable this would happen. I doubt that the Muslim, Sikh, or Jewish communities are impressed with this hate either, since they know they could be next on the Liberal hate list.

    What stupidity to spit in the face of an enormous demographic block that has supported the Liberal Party for decades.

  15. Pedant’s note:

    John Howard ’96, not ’97. But I think the similarities to John Howard are worthy of note: the Labor Party (much like the Canadian Liberals) had evolved into an increasingly disparate coalition of interest groups bound together by self-interest, not ideology. Howard could hence poach supporters by pledging support rather than ideological amenity.

  16. actually I believe ’96 was the year John Howard beat Louis St. Laurent, BlackMage.

  17. And Newfoundland where the Catholics vote Tory and the Godless Protestants vote Liberal.

  18. So, Happy Happy Conservative….when can we expect the government to bring in bills ending abortion and same-sex marriage? This would be what the legions of “hard core Christians” would be seeking from their government, would it not?

  19. The ignominy of chasing the Catholic vote.

  20. The “Catholic” label here (read: Roman Catholic) is being employed as a synecdoche for something else. There are two major caveats to the label, which Paul makes note of: (1) *outside* Quebec and (2) those attending church once a week. Right there you’ve eliminated a number of rather large swathes of Canadian Roman Catholicism. What remains is an Anglo-Canadian rendition of the typology which Terry outlines briefly in the the last two bullets of his comment above. This breaks down further (i.e. neo-con Catholic, traditionalist Catholic, charismatic Catholic, etc.)

    Btw, to H.H.C.: although I wasn’t a fan of Kinsella’s gratuitously obnoxious Barney stunt, there’s no particular reason Roman Catholics would have been offended by that on exegetical grounds. Kinsella was making a jab at literalist (protestant) evangelicals (more specifically: at Stockwell Day, who definitely isn’t Roman Catholic). Roman Catholics are not biblical literalists in this sense; a good example is Saint Augustine’s rejection of cover-to-cover biblical literalism in the Fourth Century A.D. St. Augustine specifically discussed Genesis as a creation narrative that must be appreciated symbolically and metaphorically.

  21. As a weekly church going Catholic I can only say “Noooooooooooooooooooooooo”! It is funny – Chretien, Martin and Dion – all Catholics. I don’t know – I would think that most Liberal policy items would appeal to most Catholics – social justice, strong social safety net etc. (hot button issues aside of course)

  22. I have to concur with Bridget.

  23. But it’s precisely those “hot button issues” that are mobilizing the core. That’s why (I think) the putative “Catholic vote” is reflecting the shift Lunau discusses.

    I should have phrased my statement about “the remainder” a little better, so as not be exclusive of other groups attending mass regularly. My downtown church is predominantly migrant and non-white on weekday mornings, and I can’t begin to guess at the political leanings there. Yet the composition of the congregation changes on Sundays, when goes 100% “anglo white bread”. And I mean totally. Go figure. So generalizations are risky, and I’m sure there’s a lot of unexamined dynamics at work in mass attendance patterns today.

    The dilemma of Dorothy Day ‘social gospel’ Roman Catholics is that the political left has effectively disowned them. It’s not just reflected at the political level, but in media as well. There’s certainly no reaching out, and even the (left-wing) alt media is not infrequently visceral in its anti-Catholicism (when it goes there at all). The votes of the Catholic Left are not being turned down per se, but they’re not being courted either. And the faithful are expected to check their Catholicism at the door if they don’t want to be treated to regular harangues about the Inquisition and Galileo and any other historical grievances. So the political left in Canada is not exactly embracing those who self-identify as practicing Roman Catholics, in my opinion.

  24. “The dilemma of Dorothy Day ’social gospel’ Roman Catholics is that the political left has effectively disowned them. It’s not just reflected at the political level, but in media as well. There’s certainly no reaching out, and even the (left-wing) alt media is not infrequently visceral in its anti-Catholicism (when it goes there at all). The votes of the Catholic Left are not being turned down per se, but they’re not being courted either. And the faithful are expected to check their Catholicism at the door if they don’t want to be treated to regular harangues about the Inquisition and Galileo and any other historical grievances. So the political left in Canada is not exactly embracing those who self-identify as practicing Roman Catholics, in my opinion.”

    Lee Hamilton, don’t be so sure … www-dot-ndp-faith-justice-foi-npd-dot-ca

  25. Thanks for the link. You’ve got to admit, that’s fairly new, and I don’t see a distinct appeal to Catholics there, beyond generalities. If it gets any traction, it will be interesting to see where it goes. But that kind of outreach hasn’t been part of the left’s programme in recent history (pre-9/11). Even post-9/11, you saw a bifurcation in anti-war activities and protests (Catholics being a key anti-war constituency, as they were during the Vietnam War). Perhaps the NDP is smelling new opportunities, but it’s a very late conversion on their part, if that indeed is what it is.

  26. “Perhaps the NDP is smelling new opportunities”

    Or perhaps returning to Social Gospel roots?

  27. I’m not so sure the NDP ever had those roots within specifically Roman Catholic communities to begin with. But regardless, I suspect we won’t find the NDP defending the Catholic separate school system, or defending Catholic adoption agencies that fail to comply with human rights directives pertaining to applications by same-sex prospective parents, or defending Catholic social welfare organizations that don’t follow the secular liberal line on family planning and abortion counselling. These are big issues that are hard to gloss over when push comes to shove. I agree on the need to have a middle ground where dialogue can take place, but unfortunately for liberal Roman Catholics the required compromises always turn out to be one-way. If you continually oblige something to be what it isn’t, then it eventual stops being what it was.

  28. I found the ref to Kinsella/Barney/Doris quite interesting. I was reading Kinsella quite a bit during the election(s), and one thing that struck me was the crass and offensive shots he took at Sarah Palin for her religion. The same man who daily blusters at Steyn for any wisecrack against Islam had no problem mocking Palin’s religion (as if there were nothing else there to make fun of). This is, unfortunately, emblematic of the Left’s problem: widespread disdain for Christianity. Or, to put it another way, a propensity to be respectful of every religion except their own.

  29. I should clarify that Kinsella does not regularly exhibit this Leftist trait, in fact he is the rare breed who speaks sincerely and believably about his own faith. But his forays into negativity when its to his partisan benefit are examples of the wider problem.

  30. “These are big issues that are hard to gloss over when push comes to shove. I agree on the need to have a middle ground where dialogue can take place, but unfortunately for liberal Roman Catholics the required compromises always turn out to be one-way. If you continually oblige something to be what it isn’t, then it eventual stops being what it was.”

    I agree these are big issues, but I’d just add that they’re not the only issues.

    On justice in international trade and development, war and peace, global disarmament, the environment, workers’ rights and on other issues, the Catholic Church–and other churches–take positions well to the ‘left’ (if that’s the word) of anything articulated by Stephen Harper or the various party’s he’s belonged to/led over the years.

    Take the 1998 Alberta Bishops’ Letter on Celebrating Creation. I don’t see much there that would line up with the positions articulated by right-wing parties in Canada in the decade since it was issued, and yet these parties tend not to be accused of adopting political positions at odds with church teaching, while the NDP (and Liberals as well) are often accused of taking positions on another set of issues (abortion, marriage, child care) at odds with the teaching of churches.

    Finaly, I’m not quite sure what you mean about the required compromises being all one-way for Liberal Catholics, though I think you’re probably right about the social gospel having deeper roots in Protestant denominations than in the Catholic Church.

  31. How do RCs or voters in general feel about a PM who continually says one thing than does another? Pick an issue and try to find the consistency in Harper’s position over time.

    Harper’s way is the expedient way. Whatever gives him the momentary advantage at the time the words come out of his mouth will be the position he chooses. The pre-election position on the deficit vs the after election position is a good example of this, but there are many others.

    Don Martin wrote a good piece on this today:
    Harper flip-flops on running a deficit

    I think most Canadians have Harper figured out, that’s why his popularity has never propelled him into majority territory. But he had the advantage of weak and divided opposition. If and when the opposition gets it’s act together Harper is on his way out.

  32. Stephen, you are right that those aren’t the only big issues, and that the Roman Catholic Church often takes position associated with the left (without getting explicitly ideological about it). They call that the Church’s “preferential option for the poor”. Or another example: take the Vatican’s very early and very loud opposition to the Iraq War, drawing on its long tradition of Just War Theory to pre-emptively criticize military intervention before it even occurred, while most other states and international organizations (including Canada) held their collective breath and waited (while the mainstream media acted as the U.S.’ #1 cheerleader). And the Catholic critique of unbridled capitalism is the most developed I’ve ever read. Or take Pope Benedict’s public comments that potable water was not a commercial product but a human right. Yet there are some issues that are more effective at galvanizing voting constituencies than others, and those tend to be domestic social policy issues (but not always). There’s an element of opportunism there. You’re totally right that some issues are emphasized disproportionately, and it’s fair to say that myopic fixation on a narrow spectrum of issues at the expense of others has caused some damage to the Church’s mission and to its ability to articulate its core message to the whole of society.

    Just to clarify one thing: the social gospel is deeply rooted in Catholicism – I meant that I didn’t think the NDP’s lost roots in the social gospel ever extended into Catholic enclaves, but I could be wrong about that.

  33. As an ex RC, I can tell you that when an RC is running in an election they can count on some solid support from other RC’s. I remember as a new 22 yr. old voter, going into the polling booth for a federal election and one of the scrutineers who recognized me looked over and said “You know what to do.” She was a long standing Liberal party member and the Lib candidate was RC. its like, there is an understanding that one who shares the same faith must be faithful to those who are a part of it. So glad So just for spite I went in and voted NDP. I finally came to my senses yrs later and am now a CPC supporter..

  34. There is a big difference between people who call themselves Catholic, and people who are practicing Catholics. Using ridings that are demographically composed of Catholics gives you the former, not the latter.

    Nominal Catholics have traditionally voted Liberal, now they vote whichever way the wind blows. Practicing Catholics vote according to their civic principles, which are (1) avoid murdering people, (2) support those in need, and (3) sex and children are somehow related.

    Based on those three principles, practicing Catholics look for a party that is (a) opposed to abortion, euthanasia, and unprovoked war, (b) supportive of the poor, albeit not necessarily through handouts, and (c) supportive of two-parent families, traditional marriage, etc.

    It’s hard to see which party fits that description, but in general the CPC is currently seen as a slightly better fit, if only because more of its MPs hold these same principles.

  35. Good concise post.

    That’s the dilemma of trying to define what the Roman Catholic demographic is. How does one taxonimize for statistical purposes the nominal Catholics (“cafeteria Catholics”), the “cultural Catholics” and what I call (tongue-in-cheek) the “secular Catholics”, in addition to those attending mass regularly. There are lots of Canadians with ethnic and family roots in Roman Catholicism (e.g. Italian- and French-Canadians), whose cultural references are Catholic, who feel an emotional and historical connection with the Church, but who tend to be heterodox, non-observant, or simply agnostic.

    These blurry distinctions are why we’ve been running into problems during election campaigns (here and in the U.S.) concerning the putative “politicization of the Eucharist”, when nominally Catholic or culturally Catholic office-seekers use their roots in Catholic constituencies for vote-getting purposes, and then are flabbergasted when bishops assert that the three basics you itemized above are actually to be taken seriously by those seeking public office using the Catholic vote.

    So all this to say that following “the Catholic vote” is no straight-forward task.

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