In 2016, most of the polls were wrong, period. And polls predicting that Hillary Clinton would run away with the Catholic vote proved more wishful than accurate.
In the run-up to the election, only the IBD-TIPP poll consistently pointed to a Trump win among Catholics, as CRUX noted last week. Almost all the others suggested a significant margin of victory for Clinton.
Now that the voting is over, however, preliminary results indicate Trump decisively won a majority of those self-identifying as Catholics, by 52 to 45 percent.
By contrast, President Barack Obama won Catholics narrowly, by a margin of 50 to 48 percent, in 2012.
Evangelicals flocked to Trump in far more overwhelming numbers, by a massive 81 to 16 percent.
Trump also outperformed expectations – and the 2012 precedent – among Hispanic and African American voters, while Clinton under-performed with both groups. In fact, with Hispanics, Trump bested Romney’s 2012 performance by two points, while Clinton dropped six points compared to Obama’s 2012 showing.
Both candidates had high negatives, and Clinton’s email scandal which plagued her campaign for months, and then again late in October, no doubt contributed to Trump’s victory. So did anxieties over a stagnant economy, racial animus, and the increasing costs and problems with Obamacare.
But out of sight of most media reports, religious concerns also seem to have played an important role in Trump’s win. Whether religious voters were embracing Trump or blocking Clinton, there seems to be a clear political message in the result, which is that people of faith cannot be ignored, disparaged or taken for granted.
Coming on the heels of an administration known for court battles with faith-based businesses, the U.S. bishops and other religious leaders over policies such as the HHS contraception mandate, which includes sterilization procedures and drugs critics regard as abortion-inducing, revelations seen as indicative of team Clinton’s hostility to aspects of evangelical Protestantism and the Catholic faith certainly didn’t help.
Nor did a Catholic on the bottom half of her ticket who took public policy positions at odds with the teaching of his Church on issues including abortion, the death penalty and marriage.
Nor, of course, did leaked emails from her campaign manager discussing using political operatives to change Catholic doctrine from within the Church.
As it turns out, some of Clinton’s harshest critics were African-American church leaders, who saw these emails about Catholics as a direct threat to their beliefs and way of life. Many African-American pastors signed “An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton Regarding Religious Freedom for Black America” last month, citing the emails and other positions and statements of the candidate.
Clinton’s support among the African-American community slipped by about 5 points compared to Obama’s, while Trump picked up a percentage point compared to Romney’s 2012 performance.
Those concerns were consistent with those of other religious voters worried over Clinton’s comments last year that “religious beliefs” on issues like abortion had to change.
In fact, Clinton’s abortion positions, favoring few restrictions and with major loopholes, are at odds not only with deeply religious Americans but roughly 8 in 10 overall, who favor substantial abortion restrictions according to nearly a decade of Marist polls commissioned by Crux’s partner, the Knights of Columbus.
Likewise, Clinton’s support for repealing the Hyde Amendment isn’t shared by almost two in three Americans, with religious voters especially likely to object.
Much of the election result was doubtless driven by economic angst, and concern over the drip, drip, drip of damaging emails released by Wikileaks, the FBI and the State Department.
Yet the Clinton campaign’s perceived hostility to religious belief, and what many Americans saw as its increasingly extreme stands on issues such as abortion, certainly didn’t help. With the makeup of the Supreme Court on the line, believers felt they had much to fear from Clinton appointments.
In the days ahead, more complete data sets will shed additional light, and the comparisons between church-goers and those who don’t attend church will be particularly telling. Until then, it’s safe to say that once again, rumors of the demise of religion as a voting issue have been greatly exaggerated.