Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Huckabee's Catholic Problem

I've always kind of assumed the deep divisions between (conservative) American Catholics and Evangelicals had mostly healed by now. But maybe that's due to my stance as an outsider: as a liberal Jew, it's difficult for me to differentiate between various conservative Christian sects from each other. This also might lead me to pervasively underestimate the amount of anti-Mormon sentiment Mitt Romney faces. He's conservative (today, anyway)! He's Christian! What more do you folks want?

And so, it appears my instinct might be mistaken. Running some numbers on the Iowa caucuses, Philip Klinkner finds that Huckabee has a serious Catholic problem. Despite his statewide victory, he ran into serious trouble in Catholic counties, who went strongly for Romney. I guess I have to ask whether or not the data is skewed by non-Catholic (and evangelical-heavy) areas just went hard against Romney because he's Mormon (while Catholics were less disposed to be automatically biased against him), but to my poorly trained eye it looks like Klinkner separated those variables out. Debaser raises the possibility that Catholic concentration in urban areas presents a confounding variable, which seems a legitimate point. But it wouldn't surprise me if Huckabee was at least underperforming among Catholics.

As Matt Yglesias points out, if true, this represents a problem for Huckabee. Catholics are the paradigmatic case of a voting bloc that is sympathetic to social conservatism but also likes their government programs. It's his platform personified. If he turns them off, he's going to have trouble making any serious progress in the general.

1 comment:

PG said...

I think your underestimation of the divisions between Catholics and Protestants is due at least as much to growing up in a politically and socially liberal area (and to Maryland's having been *founded* as a Catholic refuge) as it is to being a religious outsider. Despite being Hindu, I realized just how big a gulf there was between the conservative Protestants and the Catholics when my sister's best friend in junior high had to break up with her little Baptist boyfriend b/c she was a Catholic and the boy's father didn't approve of his dating a Papist. In Texas, Catholicism is heavily identified with being Latino -- in some cases from old wealthy families like in San Antonio, but in East Texas, mostly identified with recent immigrants.