Iowa presents first test of 2024 Catholic vote in U.S. — By: Catholic News Agency

CatholicVote president Brian Burch discusses the upcoming Iowa caucuses with “EWTN News Nightly” host Tracy Sabol on Jan. 9, 2024. / Credit: “EWTN News Nightly”

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 11, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The first contest in the Republican presidential nomination will take place in Iowa on Jan. 15 and the political advocacy group CatholicVote is focused on driving higher participation by Catholics in that state as well as the rest of the country. 

“Large numbers of Mass-attending Catholics … do not regularly vote in elections, and I think it’s incumbent upon us and those of us who care about what’s happening in our country not just to sit back and watch the news and complain and get frustrated, but to actually get out there and vote,” CatholicVote President Brian Burch said in an interview with “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol.

According to CatholicVote, only about half of Iowa’s Catholics voted in the 2022 midterm elections, which is a number that the organization is trying to increase through its voter mobilization program. 

Burch said that “because of the size of the Catholic Church in this country, even a small increase in the percentage of mass-attending Catholics voting could have a dramatic impact on the outcome of these elections.”

With the Catholic Church’s “preeminent priority” of abortion on the minds of many voters, Burch noted that each of the Republican candidates are pro-life at some level, particularly when compared with what he called incumbent President Joe Biden’s “extreme abortion advocacy.” 

Former President Donald Trump, who polls indicate continues to be the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination, has not clearly stated whether he would support a ban on abortions in the 15th week of pregnancy. His top two rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, however, have said they would sign 15-week bans, but Haley has emphasized that such legislation is unlikely to reach the president’s desk. 

Despite the Church’s consistent teaching on abortion, a recent poll conducted by Pew found that about 46% of Catholics believe abortion pills should be legal and only about 26% of Catholic respondents said they should be illegal. 

“The Church is very clear: abortion pills, abortion surgeries, or abortions in general are never justified, and so this is a very tragic state and I think all of us have a role to play here,” Burch said. “Our bishops have a role, our priests have a role, and we as laypeople have to help people understand that this involves the taking of an innocent human life. It destroys marriages and it perverts the entire Church teaching on sexuality,” Burch said.

Commenting on the state of the race, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Catholic and Republican representing Iowa’s First Congressional District, told Sabol that the renomination of former President Trump is far from a sure thing. 

“I don’t think anything is inevitable,” Miller-Meeks said. “I like the policies of President Trump. He is [the] former president. He is not an incumbent this cycle. And I think all of us know of the perils of reelecting Joe Biden. So all of us want someone that can be Joe Biden and someone that can pass things into law.”

A compilation of polls from the election analysis website FiveThirtyEight shows former President Donald Trump leading in Iowa’s statewide polls with nearly 52% support. DeSantis and Haley are in a tight race for second, with the former polling just above 17% and the latter polling just under 17%. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy sits at a distant fourth with slightly more than 6% and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is at fifth with 3%.

A compilation of polls from RealClearPolling shows Trump ahead of Biden at the national level by about 1.2 percentage points. DeSantis, alternatively, trails Biden in national polling by about one-third of one percentage point, while Haley leads Biden by 3.3 percentage points.

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