A new survey of the religious affiliations of members of Congress shows that the number of Roman Catholic Republicans is at an all-time high.
There are 154 Catholics in the 109th Congress the highest number ever including 87 Democrats and 67 Republicans, the Religion News Service reported. While Democrats have a lead, Republicans are gaining, with two-thirds of new Catholic members coming from the GOP.
Some political observers say the trend indicates a Catholic drift toward the Republican Party. Prior to the election, several polls indicated that the Catholic vote was evenly split between President George W. Bush and challenger U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, who is Catholic. Bush ended up with 53 percent of the Catholic vote.
Generally, polls show that traditionalist, more observant Catholics who attend mass regularly lean Republican. Those who attend services less often lean Democratic.
The religious survey of Congress was conducted by Albert J. Menendez, a Maryland-based researcher who tracks the role of religion in politics. Menendez has been doing the survey of Congress since 1972.
Menendez’s research shows a relatively stable religious makeup since 2002, with Catholics solidifying their status as the largest single faith group. They are followed by Baptists with 72 members, Methodists with 61, Presbyterians with 50, Episcopalians with 42, Jews with 37, non-denominational Protestants with 24, Lutherans with 20, Mormons with 15 and those who listed simply “Christians” at 14.
The survey found that Catholic members of Congress are now coming from some states that do not have a large Catholic population. For example, there are three Catholics among the 15-member North Carolina delegation and all are Republicans.