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Church-Going Catholics Reject Trump, Expected To Support Clinton


We've heard a great deal about how people who identify as evangelical Christians are getting behind Donald Trump. But some new polls show that another group of Christian voters are decidedly anti-Trump - Catholics. The most recent polls show Donald Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by as much as 27 percent. And it isn't just that Trump has alienated many Hispanic voters who are Catholic. Those poll numbers reflect Catholics who hark back to earlier immigrations from Italy, Poland and Ireland, a group that traditionally leans Republican.

For some thoughts on why, we reached out to John Carr. He's head of Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. Welcome to the program.

JOHN CARR: Thank you. Glad to be with you.

MONTAGNE: Is there a Catholic vote?

CARR: E.J. Dionne has a wonderful line. He says, there is no Catholic vote, and it's really important. If you think about the Catholic vote, it's several pieces. About 40 percent tips Republican, about 40 percent tips Democratic and the remaining 20 percent helps decide who's president. The stunning thing in this election is that the more you go to church as a Catholic, the less likely you are to support Donald Trump. He is polling 20 percent behind what Mitt Romney got in the last election.

MONTAGNE: Which is, as you've just suggested, a real reverse for church-going Catholics.

CARR: It really is, and it's stunning. My sense is it's not an embrace of Secretary Clinton. It's more a rejection of Donald Trump.

MONTAGNE: Let's talk about the why here, and in particular these church-going Catholics.

CARR: Among church-going Catholics, I think there are several problems for Trump. One is temperament. Does he have the character, the qualities we want in a president? A second is background. He seems very secular. He's the pro-family candidate, but he's also the candidate with three marriages. People really admire his children but wonder about his commitments.

Church-going Catholics are often sons and daughters of immigrants, and they do not take kindly to a candidate who demonizes immigrants. And I think there is a possibility that Pope Francis, who has challenged Catholics to look at the world from the bottom up, has touched people's hearts and consciences and may be affecting their votes.

MONTAGNE: Other Christians, evangelical Christians, have embraced him in big numbers, even though he doesn't fit in very well to a lot of what they believe. Is there something particular about Catholicism that would make people back off from Donald Trump?

CARR: The heart of the Catholic faith is whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto me. And, frankly, this demoralizing campaign is not focused on the least of these. But Donald Trump in particular seems to neglect notions of the common good.

MONTAGNE: Many Catholics will vote on the issue of abortion. They are anti-abortion rights. Why would they lean maybe towards Clinton? Why would they fall away from Donald Trump when that's his expressed position?

CARR: I think there are a lot of people that are simply unpersuaded that Donald Trump's conversion to the pro-life cause is real. He has difficulty talking about it. So I don't think pro-life Catholics are choosing Clinton. I think they're unpersuaded that Donald Trump is one of them.

MONTAGNE: Thank you for joining us.

CARR: Glad to be with you.

MONTAGNE: That is John Carr. He is the Washington correspondent for America: The National Catholic Review. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.