The GOP has high hopes for Hispanic Catholics. Ending Roe probably won’t help.


The reason the South went from blue to red as a result of the civil rights movement was not simply that huge swaths of pro-segregation voters went from Democrat to Dixiecrat to Republican. It was also generational, as historian Chris Warshaw explained to me a few months ago: former conservative Democrats died and were replaced by young conservative Republicans. The region’s partisanship was not aligned with its politics. From the late 1960s until fairly recently, he returned to the roster.

For Republicans, the idea that partisanship is at odds with politics seems to offer other more current opportunities. Black and Hispanic voters generally identify as less staunchly liberal than white Democrats, a reality that may have contributed to Joe Biden’s weaker showing with those groups in 2020 compared to Hillary Clinton’s four years earlier. If the GOP can figure out how to appeal to this more conservative bent without otherwise alienating nonwhite voters, it could benefit from the realignment.

A particular point of optimism for the party has long been Hispanic Catholics. Non-Hispanic white Catholics are often staunch voters on matters adjacent to religion, such as abortion. In 2020, white Catholics backed Donald Trump by a 15 point margin; might the party be able to achieve similar margins among the heavily Catholic Hispanic population?

The consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade offers a caveat. During the last years, PRRI survey finds, Hispanic Catholics increasingly accept access to abortion. And following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in power last month, the percentage of Hispanic Catholics expressing their opposition to the cancellation deer increased to double digits.

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PRRI’s poll compared recent views on abortion with a 2010 poll. In both polls, most Americans thought abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Twelve years ago, however, only about half of Hispanic Catholics felt that way. Now three-quarters do.

The religious group least in favor of access to abortion is not white Catholics but white evangelical Protestants. Evangelicals have repeatedly demonstrated that they are the most politically conservative religious group in the United States in recent years and, according to PRRI research, are the only such group that overwhelmingly opposes the access to abortion.

This is largely because the evangelical community is so uniformly Republican. From March to the end of June, there was no general change in the extent to which Americans were generally in favor of keeping deerbut among white evangelical Protestants, the percentage indicating opposition to the overthrow deer fell from 46 to 30%. Among white evangelical Protestants Republicansopposition to reversal deer was halved from around 2 in 5 to around 1 in 5.

But again, note this increase among Hispanic Catholics. In March, 58% of Hispanic Catholics opposed the cancellation deer. In June, 72% did.

Part of this is a function of the margin of error. Hispanic Catholics are a relatively small group in the United States, so there will be more uncertainty in population polls. Part of it is partisanship as well. In 2018, Hispanic Catholics preferred Democratic candidates to Republicans by a margin of 44 points. White Catholics preferred Republicans by 20 points. Evangelicals, who made up six times more of the electorate than Hispanic Catholics, preferred the Republican by more than 60 points.

An interesting finding from the 2019 PRRI survey is also worth highlighting. That year, pollsters found a big difference in support for abortion between native-born and foreign-born Hispanics. Among people born in the United States, 6 in 10 thought abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Of those born in other countries, only a third have done so.

It’s hard now, and it will be hard after November, to disentangle mainstream political views of Biden’s relative unpopularity and the disadvantage new presidents typically see in their first midterm elections. Democrats remain hopeful that the Dobbs decision will encourage their base to vote.

At the very least, it doesn’t seem Dobbs going to do a lot to get Hispanic Catholics to vote the other way.

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