The Catholic Voter in American Politics: The Passing of the Democratic Monolith

Front Cover
Georgetown University Press, 1999 - Political Science - 260 pages

Once a keystone of the Democratic Party, American Catholics are today helping to put Republicans in office. This book traces changes in party allegiance and voting behavior of Catholics in national elections over the course of 150 years and explains why much of the voting bloc that supported John F. Kennedy has deserted the Democratic coalition.

William B. Prendergast analyzes the relationship between Catholics and the GOP from the 1840s to 1990s. He documents a developing attachment of Catholics to Republican candidates beginning early in this century and shows that, before Kennedy, Catholics helped elect Eisenhower, returned to the polls in support of Nixon and Reagan, and voted for a Republican Congress in 1994.

To account for this shifting allegiance, Prendergast analyzes transformations in the Catholic population, the parties, and the political environment. He attributes these changes to the Americanization of immigrants, the socioeconomic and educational advancement of Catholics, and the emergence of new issues. He also cites the growth of ecumenicism, the influence of Vatican II, the abatement of Catholic-Protestant hostility, and the decline of anti-Catholicism in the Republican party.

Clearly demonstrating a Catholic move toward political independence, Prendergast's work reveals both the realignment of voters and the influence of religious beliefs in the political arena. Provocative and informative, it confirms the opinion of pollsters that no candidate can take the vote of the largest and most diverse religious group in the nation for granted.


What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


The Growth of the Catholic Population 1 The Immigrant Church
The Ethnic Diversity of the Catholic People 5 Geographic Distribution
Changing Intergenerational Occupational Status 13 Rising Educational
Political Activism of Catholics 21 Catholics and Political Parties
The Clergy and Politics 25 The Influence of Religious Belief on Voting
Major Currents of the MidNineteenth Century 33 Catholics
The Formation of a National Republican Party 46 Political Events
Social and Political Change 69 Catholicism at the Turn of
The Eisenhower Victory of 1952 120 The 1956 Election
Kennedy and the Return of the Prodigals
The Religious Gap 142 Differences Between
Elections of
The Political Homogenization of American Catholics
The Republican Victory of 1994 201 The Campaign of 1996
A StandOff 216 Political Parties at the End of

Campaign 79 The Realigning Presidential Election of 189680
The Roaring Twenties 93 Catholics in the Twenties 94 The Democratic
The Republican Party and the Religious Issue 107 Enduring Effects of
American Catholics in the Wake of the War 116 The Election of 1948
How the Political Environment Changed 224 The Catholic Voter in
Additional Reading

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1999)

William B. Prendergast has had a distinguished career in government and politics, including as an author of Republican national platforms in four presidential elections and as director of the Research Division of the Republican National Committee. He also served as U.S. Defense Advisor to NATO and was a special assistant to the Secretary of Defense. He earlier taught political science at the U.S. Naval Academy, The Catholic University of America, and Johns Hopkins University.

Bibliographic information