Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.


January Frontrunners for Catholics?

We have our first view of what Catholics think about the candidates running for president in 2016. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of U.S. adults in mid-January and asked, if elected, how great or terrible each of the candidates would be as president. Six in ten or more Catholics think Marco Rubio (65%) and Ted Cruz (60%) would be an “average” or better president. Donald Trump trails the field with just 43% of Catholics thinking he’d be “average” or better. A majority believe Hillary Clinton (57%) would be “average” or better. In general, Catholics are slightly more positive about the presidential prospects in the field than the public overall.

The “average” or better calculation provides inferences to which candidates Catholics might be willing to vote for rather than a positive affirmation of a candidate. The next table looks at overall positive evaluations, negative evaluations, and net positives. Hillary Clinton strongly leads the field with 40% of Catholics saying she would be a “good” or “great” president. However, about the same share (41%) thinks she’d be a “poor” or “terrible” president. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have fewer Catholics thinking they’d be a “good” or “great” president but their negatives come in a bit lower as well. Significantly fewer Catholics think they’d be a “poor” or “terrible” president (28% each).

It is still extraordinarily early. The outcomes of primaries and continued debates and advertising will undoubtedly shift opinion. As a sheer votes contest today, Hillary Clinton would likely win more votes of Catholics than any other candidate. But Clinton, along with Donald Trump, are “well knowns” and each already has sizeable opposition. As Catholics get to know the other candidates they have room to grow their positives and negatives. Most have more “room to grow” (or fall!) than Clinton or Trump.

Note: As in 2012, I am still neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I am an apolitical political scientist and survey researcher who is not registered to vote and politically inactive in every way. I personally prefer “none of the above.”

Images courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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