October 30, 2004
Faith and the Election
People of faith and those most committed to
traditional marriage will decide this election.
Consider the "Marriage Gap." An October Gallup
Poll reported the overall race was
essentially tied with 50 percent of registered voters supporting Kerry vs.
48 percent for Bush.
However, 57 percent of married registered voters
plan to vote for Bush, while only 39
percent back Kerry. By contrast, a big 60 percent of the unmarried
support Kerry vs. a thin 37 percent for Bush.
That's the mirror opposite. The unmarried are
even more committed to Kerry than the
married are to Bush. Furthermore, this Marriage Gap has persisted
throughout this election year.
Why? Singles are more secular, less religious and
more committed to individual freedom, such as the right of a woman to have
an abortion. Kerry exemplifies those
characteristics. He was one of few Senators to vote against the
federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 that was signed by President
Clinton. Although Catholic, he makes a point of saying "I love my
church. I respect the bishops, but I respectfully disagree...on issues like
a woman's right to choose or stem cell research."
On the other hand, the marriage issue is particularly
important in eleven states where
marriage is on the ballot. Two are in closely-contested "battleground"
states of Ohio and
Michigan. Voters are being asked to approve a state constitutional amendment
that would define marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
This ballot initiative is clearly pulling some Catholics and evangelicals to
the polls whose interest in other political issues is weak. That is may be
one reason that Bush remains ahead of Kerry in Ohio and Michigan though both
states have suffered a hemorrhage of jobs.
Other states voting on Nov. 2 on marriage issues are
Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky,
Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah. In recent
months, Louisiana and Missouri passed similar constitutional amendments by 78 and 71
Among evangelical Christians who are likely to vote, a
stunning 90 percent support Bush, according to a Barna Poll. Non-evangelical born again Christians also strongly
support the President by a 54 to 36 percent margin. Together, these groups
are half of those expected to vote. These voters predominate in the South
and Midwest where Bush is comfortably ahead.
Bush rallies such voters with this statement, given
after he met with Philadelphia
Cardinal Justin Rigali last week: "We stand for a culture of life in which
every person matters and every being counts. We stand for marriage and
family, which are the foundation of our society."
The Catholic vote has been much more volatile. Before
mid-May, Bush had a slight lead among Catholics, who are a quarter of
registered voters. By August, however,
Gallup reported Kerry edged ahead, by 51 percent of Catholic voters vs. only
45 percent for Bush.
Of particular interest, in August weekly church
attenders supported Bush over Kerry by a 10 point margin - 52 to 42 percent.
Catholics who rarely attend church favored
Kerry by a large 57 to 39 percent margin. Presumably, more ardent
Catholics support the church's pro-life position on abortion, euthanasia and
stem cell research.
However, Gallup reported this week that while Kerry
maintained his slender 50-48
percent margin among all Catholic registered voters, that the support of
Bush by the most active Catholics had weakened. Weekly church attenders now back Bush by 49 to 47
percent, a mere two point margin, down from 10 points.
Why? Begin with the tribal factor. Kerry
regularly mentions that he's a Catholic who
attends Mass weekly and was an altar boy. President Kennedy, America's
president, garnered three-fourths of the Catholic vote.
Add to that Kerry's stand on social issues. He asserts
Christians believe in caring for the sick, housing the homeless, feeding the
hungry but charges the Bush Administration was not heeding those
Kerry said as President, "I will put middle-class
families, and those who are struggling to join the middle class ahead of
interests of the well-to-do."
Catholic bishops believe the daily killing of 4,000
babies in the womb is more important.
"We see abortion as a matter of civil rights and human
dignity, not simply as a matter of
religious teaching," argues Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput.
"Words are cheap. Actions matter. If we believe in the
sanctity of life from conception to natural death, we need to prove that by
our actions, including our political choices. Anything less leads to the
corruption of our integrity."
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