Donald Trump’s greatest problem this election is a massive loss of Catholic voters, including Irish Catholics, to Hillary Clinton, a just released polling shows. New polling figures from the Public Religion Research Institute show Trump trailing by 55 percent to 33 percent.
An earlier Washington Post poll showed the figures even worse for Trump at 61 percent to 34 percent, a whopping 27 percent lead. The Post wrote that Trump’s “biggest problem actually appears to be with... Catholics.”
In contrast to Trump, Mitt Romney in 2012 lost the overall Catholic vote by just two percent, 50 percent to 48 percent.
The 27-point shift toward Clinton by Catholics is the biggest demographic vote change among any group since 2012. Even Catholics who attend church weekly are siding with Clinton after supporting Romney by nine points in 2012
While Protestants continue to support Trump in large numbers, evangelicals support him by over 80 percent, Catholics are thinking differently.
Catholics make up 25 percent of the voters in America making them a key segment, perhaps the key segment of the electorate.
Trump is losing the Hispanic Catholic vote by 85 percent to 13 percent, but he is also losing the White Catholic vote by two percent.
The Catholic vote is a key swing vote in every general election and Republicans have won it in five of the last eleven elections.
But Trump is foundering and immigration and Pope Francis may be key.
Religion News Service columnist and Catholic administrator John Gehrig states that “Part of Catholics’ DNA is an appreciation for how Irish and other immigrants toiled and thrived in the shadow of a suspicious, fiercely anti-Catholic culture dominated by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.
“When John F. Kennedy became the first (and so far only) Catholic president, his religion was viewed so warily by some Protestant clergy that he was compelled to give a landmark speech assuring the country he would not take his marching orders from Rome.
“When Trump calls for a religious test for Muslims entering the country; questions the faith of Hillary Clinton, President Obama and Mitt Romney; and demonizes undocumented immigrants as “rapists,” it’s a reminder of the ugly nativism that Catholics once faced.”
Many Irish have expressed that opinion that Trump strongly reminds them of “No Irish Need Apply” and the “Know Nothing” riots against them.
Then there was the sight of Nigel Farage at the recent Trump rally, a diehard anti-immigrant leader in Britain who wants Britain for the British and to keep former colonies out.
Trump also has a Pope Francis problem – the pope is extremely popular among US Catholics.
This February, on a flight to Rome from Mexico, the Pope was asked about his response to Trump's infamous wall. “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel."
“I say only that this man is not Christian if he said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt."
Trump attacked Pope Francis in return, calling the pontiff’s comments “disgraceful.”
“For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President.”
Trump needs to overcome the shocking deficit among Catholics but with time running out it looks like a major uphill task.