Friday, February 19, 2016

Trump, The Pope and Catholicism

As we all know now, Donald Trump's current feud is with The Pope.  Rather than comment on the substance (because what fun would that be?), I thought I might throw in a little bit of data.  Will Trump's current feud hurt him in his quest for the Republican nomination?  That depends on the relationship between the Republican Party and Catholicism.  As some may remember, catholics used to be a prominent part of the "New Deal Coalition."  In fact, they still lean slightly Democratic.  But, it's more complicated than that.  Here are some interesting findings from the 2012 American National Election Studies survey.  Two questions:  what proportion of each party identifies as catholic, and how does each party feel about catholics?  For the former, I'm simply looking at religious self-identification.  For the latter, I'm relying on the "feeling thermometer," in which respondents rate their feelings toward a group on a 0-100 scale, with higher scores meaning more positive feelings.  I'm using sample weights.  What do we see?

                                                 Percent Catholic       Average Feeling Thermometer towards Catholics
Strong Democrats                           25.4%                                  60.10
Weak Democrats                            23.8%                                   57.93
Independent Democrats                  19.5%                                  54.47
Independents                                   23.0%                                  54.11
Independent Republicans                24.5%                                 64.18
Weak Republicans                          22.4%                                  61.14
Strong Republicans                         21.2%                                  67.72

What do we learn?  Well, the New Deal Coalition ain't what it used to be.  Strong and weak Democrats are slightly more likely than similarly strong Republicans to be Catholic, but Republicans express more positive attitudes towards catholics.  Does that mean Trump's comments will hurt him because Republicans love catholics so much?  Nothing here directly addresses that.  In principle, it could hurt him, but someone within the Republican Party would have to side with The Pope against Trump on immigration to make that happen.  Otherwise, Trump wins again.

He could still lose, but can we stop pretending that Trump will necessarily get crushed any day now?  How many times has he survived a "this-will-end-his-campaign" moment?

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