Joe Biden’s lead among Catholics in swing states is within the margin of error after President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Biden, a Catholic, has consistently led Trump with fellow members of his faith throughout the campaign. But the Democratic presidential nominee now only boasts a slim advantage over the president in the Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, according to a poll conducted by RealClear Opinion Research. That narrowing coincided with Trump’s nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court, a move met widely with approval from Catholics.
Barrett, who is all but certain to fill the seat left vacant after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, found favor with a plurality of Catholics. About 46% approved of her nomination, while only 28% opposed it. A majority of Catholics, regardless of whether they supported Barrett, who, like Biden, is Catholic, said that during her confirmation process, it was not acceptable for her to face questions about her faith.
In the weeks leading up to Barrett’s nomination, many Republicans warned that Barrett would face “religious tests” when she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Pointing to questions from Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Republicans said that many questions about Catholicism were veiled litmus tests to determine the nominee’s position on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, which the Catholic Church prohibits.
About three-quarters of Catholics think that religious doctrine should not be used in vetting for public office, and nearly 70% believe that questions about faith should not be asked in judicial confirmation hearings, the poll found.
Many of the issues that raised concern among Democrats in the Barrett hearings also stand out among Catholics, according to the poll. A majority of Catholics said they are more likely to support a presidential candidate who protects religious liberty, opposes taxpayer-funded abortion, and opposes the right to an abortion at any point during a pregnancy. Many Catholics said these issues extend into how they view potential Supreme Court nominations, rating the composition of the court as a “major concern.”
Both the Trump and Biden campaigns have pushed hard for the Catholic vote in swing states, with supporters on each side speculating that the outcome of the election could come down to Catholic voters in the Upper Midwest. The Biden campaign has pointed to the former vice president’s own faith, while the Trump campaign has sent an issue-driven message, pointing to the president’s support for anti-abortion measures and religious liberty.
Because the Catholic vote encompasses so many types of people, from devout to nonpracticing, either emphasis could triumph. Carl Cannon, executive editor of RealClear Media Group, said the Catholic vote in many ways is a “bellwether” of the general electorate simply because it makes up about a quarter of the population.
“You can’t win without it,” he said.