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What Happened to the Catholic Vote in the 2020 Presidential Election?

Stephen Beale

Catholic voters split almost evenly between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the election, amid a Democrat effort to sway religious voters troubled by the president’s demeanor and rhetoric and positions on issues like immigration. 

One exit poll showed Biden winning 51% of the Catholic vote, with 47% going to Trump, according to data published by The Washington Post. That would be a reversal of 2016, when Trump beat Hillary Clinton among Catholics, 52% to 45%, according to one analysis of the data. However, a second exit poll for the 2020 election, taken by The Associated Press and Fox News, suggested a closer race for Catholics, with Trump at 50% and Biden with 49%. 

Despite the discrepancies, both exit polls agree, once margins of error are taken into account, the Catholic vote was “a tie,” according to Mark Gray, a pollster at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. 

“Clearly, what we see in the national polls is marginal gains for Biden,” said John White, a political scientist at The Catholic University of America, who was one of the co-chairs of “Catholics for Biden.” 

Brian Burch, president of the pro-Trump Catholic Vote, questioned the validity of the exit polls, noting that the preelection polls showed Biden winning by a much larger margin. However, even assuming the exit polls are correct, Burch said the overall numbers gloss over an important distinction between nominal Catholics and regular Massgoers. 

“The generic Catholic vote is somewhat irrelevant in the sense that … a large portion of the respondents to that exit polling are not practicing or don’t take the faith seriously at all. So in terms of its relevance to the Church, [among] those who are still practicing the faith, Trump won in a landslide yet again,” Burch said, adding that Trump got about 60% of the “practicing Catholic” vote.

Burch said, “Did Joe Biden make some progress? Marginally, if you trust these polls.” 

Read more at National Catholic Register

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