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Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in conversation on CNN Photo by: CNN

Michigan Catholics prefer Mormon Mitt Romney to Catholic Rick Santorum

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Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in conversation on CNN Photo by: CNN

Even though presidential candidate Rick Santorum is Catholic and has made it known that he is a man of faith, surprisingly it is Morman Mitt Romney who appears to have won over the Catholics in Michigan, where the Republican primary will be held on Tuesday.

Catholics there, many of them Irish American, also prefer Romney to the other Catholic in the field, Newt Gingrich, a recent convert.

The disconnect between faith and politics shows that some religious voters are more concerned with other issues, according to NPR.

"I'm a Catholic, and I'm told that one of the responsibilities of the Church is to care for those who are the least among us," Santorum said, "and I believe that, and that's a real responsibility for all of us."

According to Public Policy Polling, Santorum's faith and family man image gives him an advantage with Michigan's Protestants, Evangelicals, and those who consider themselves "very conservative."

However, Romney leads the field with moderates, "somewhat conservative" voters and Catholics, according to the poll.

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"There's a lot of complexity there," says John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron. "Religion and politics often line up, but they don't always correlate perfectly."

"There is ... what we might call the orthodoxy of religious beliefs, and someone like Sen. Santorum is a very orthodox Catholic in terms of religion. He holds very closely to the traditional teachings of the Church," he says.

"Some Catholic conservatives, or liberals for that matter, may be turned off by a fellow parishioner or a Catholic candidate who is self-consciously a traditionalist," he says.

Green says that until the '60s, Catholics tended to vote as a group for Democrats. But as Catholics — many of whom were recent immigrants — began to assimilate and become more accepted, their views on politics began to splinter.

Katie Goebel, whose father runs a Lenten Friday night fish fry in Walled Lake, Mich, says that she hasn't made up her mind who to vote for, but her faith plays a role.

"I will admit it does play a big role on issues like on contraception, abortion, things like that. But other things, like marriage and all that, I'm sort of up in the air," she says. "You know, people more [in] my generation, we're seeing things like gay marriage and stuff like that as OK."

Jan Artushin and her husband both attend mass regularly, and they're both undecided.

"I think we have to focus on the economy and jobs," she says. "I think that the religious issues ... [are] taking a back step because I think we're in such dire straights right now."

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