ARE CATHOLICS UNIQUELY CROSS-PRESSURED? POLICY BELIEFS AND VOTING BEHAVIOR BY RELIGIOUS TRADITION IN RECENT U.S. ELECTIONS
Keywords:Catholics, religion, partisanship, cross-pressure, opinion, voting
The Catholic Church’s pro-life, pro-social justice policy agenda takes the sides of both major US political parties. This potentially cross-pressures Catholic voters’ choice between those parties, but could alternatively legitimate a Catholic voter’s personal partisan preference. This paper examines whether Catholic voters who share the Church’s core policy positions are more or less likely than comparably cross-pressured non-Catholic voters to exhibit political behaviors associated with cross-pressures: avoiding identification with a major party, avoiding voting or a major-party vote choice, defecting from one’s party in voting, and selectively misperceiving candidate issue positions. Analyzing data from the 2016-2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Studies and the 1992-2016 American National Election Studies, I find little evidence that Catholics are uniquely, strongly cross-pressured. If anything, cross-pressured (and other) Catholics are more likely than comparable non-Catholics–even those in faith traditions that are more clearly aligned with a single party–to embrace partisan politics. In some cases, partisan differences between Catholics in their responsiveness to cross-pressures exceed differences between Catholics and non-Catholics.
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