The electoral behavior of American Catholics: An examination and explanation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Jeffrey M. Stonecash


Electoral behavior, Catholics, Worldview

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Political Science | Religion | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Current conventional wisdom holds that the long relationship between American Catholics and the Democratic Parry has come to an end. Catholics are now swing voters, as likely to vote Republican as they are Democratic. The Catholic/Protestant divide that has traditionally marked U.S. electoral politics has also disappeared, with the two groups now indistinguishable in terms of their electoral behavior. This dissertation challenges the conventional wisdom outlined above. I demonstrate that Catholics remain more likely to support the Democrats than the Republicans. More important, Catholic electoral behavior continues to be distinct from that of Protestants. The primary reason for these phenomena, according to my findings, lies in the respective worldviews produced by Catholicism and Protestantism. Specifically, I argue that the Catholic worldview emphasizes values that are more communal and focused on equality than does the Protestant worldview, which places greater emphasis on the values of individualism and freedom.


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