The 1960 Catholic Vote
June 25th, 2012

Michael Barone has a data point I’ve been wanting to see for a long while now: The 1960 Catholic vote.

Barone notes that in ’60, 78 percent of Catholics voted for Kennedy. He uses that as a comparison point for the 2008 black vote for Obama, in order to explain why overwhelming support from a one particular demographic group for a candidate of their own isn’t worrisome. But I’m not sure I’m persuaded.

Because what that means is that 1960, in a race which is partially defined by Kennedy’s Catholicism, nearly 1-in-4 Catholics voted against him. In 2008, Obama took home 96 percent of the black vote. Which means that only 1-in-25 blacks voted against him. To my mind, anyway, that seems like a difference in kind.

I’ll be very interested to see what proportion of the Mormon vote Mitt Romney captures in November. (And I hope there will be some relevant exit poll data on it.) Will Mormons vote as a group more like Catholics did in 1960, or more like blacks did in 2008?

  1. Galley Friend J.E. June 25, 2012 at 11:14 am

    The apples-to-apples comparison wouldn’t be JFK in ’60; it would be Al Smith in ’28–the first time Catholics could vote for one of their own. And they voted almost unanimously for Smith, though in previous elections their vote had been split between the parties. I believe a much higher percentage voted for Smith than for JFK.

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  3. Caractacud June 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Although anecdotal, in my LDS (Mormon) church parking lot I see some Obama bumper stickers. Mormons are predominantly conservative, a legacy of both Utah and our extensive internal social services network (personal conjecture), but at least out here in liberal Seattle, no one appears to be hiding their love for Obama from fellow Mormons. Hey, no one said you had to be good at math to get to heaven.

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  5. Steve Sailer June 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Catholics splintered as a voting bloc after JFK.

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  7. Fake Herzog June 25, 2012 at 9:41 pm


    I think that is a very interesting comparison — I did some quick Googling and found this juicy quote from La Wik:

    “Smith swept the entire Catholic vote, which had been split in 1920 and 1924, and brought millions of Catholics to the polls for the first time, especially women. The fact that Smith was Catholic garnered him support from immigrant populations in New England, which may explain his narrow victories in traditionally Republican Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as his narrow 2% loss in New York (which previous Democratic presidential candidates had lost by double digits).[22]”

    The source is

    Rice, Arnold S. (1972). The Ku Klux Klan in American Politics. Haskell House Publishers.

    Those were the days…

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  9. Galley Friend J.E. June 26, 2012 at 10:20 am

    The KKK in American Politics? Sounds like the biography of Robert Byrd.

    One might have expected Catholics to vote overwhelmingly Democrat, given the power of Tammany Hall over immigrant and second-gen Irish and Italians. On the other hand, the Repubs were the party least hospitable to Catholic haters, like the ascendant KKK.

    And people nowadays think we’re divided “as never before”!

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  11. mrmandias June 27, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Someone just polled Utah and Romney pulled 68% support. I couldn’t find their internals, but my guess is that’s about 80% Mormon support or so.