Catholics for Trump activist Cassandra Luevano believes President Donald Trump will win more Catholic voter support than his Democratic challenger, as he did last year, because of his positions on religious freedom, abortion and the work his administration has done to fight human trafficking.
In 2016, Trump won just over half of the Catholic vote with 52% of Catholics (Hispanics and whites combined) voting for him, while 45% voted for his Democratic challenger, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to the Pew Research Center. This followed two presidential elections where former President Barack Obama won a majority of the Catholic vote in 2008 and 2012, at 54% and 50%, respectively.
Unlike Protestant and evangelical Christians, a majority of whom voted Republican in the last four elections, Catholics are more willing to switch between Republican and Democratic candidates. In the 2016 presidential election, according to Pew, Clinton won 39% of the Protestant vote and 16% of the evangelical vote, and Trump won 58% of the Protestant vote and 81% of the evangelical vote.
“I think there have always been Catholics for Trump,” said Luevano, who's vice president of Camino Real Republican Women and a former border adviser strategist for Latinos for Trump, to The Christian Post. “I don’t think we’ve organized until the Trump campaign started building strong coalitions across the community. I think from there we knew which candidate we had to support.”
"I think Trump will win the Catholic vote from Biden," Luevano added.
The Pew Research Center reports that Catholics are evenly divided politically. Among Catholic registered voters, some 48% identify as Republican or lean Republican, while 47% identify as Democrat or lean Democrat. When broken down among white and Hispanic Catholic voters, however, 57% of white Catholics identify as Republican or lean toward the Republican Party, while 68% of Hispanic Catholic voters identify as Democrat or lean toward the Democratic Party.
Catholic voters also tend to vote more with their political party than based on the Catholic Church's teachings. The Catholic Church formally opposes abortion and Pope Francis has condemned Trump’s border wall. Even so, most Democratic Catholics support abortion and most Republican Catholics support the border wall, according to a 2019 Pew survey.
While former Vice President Joe Biden is Catholic and Trump isn’t, Luevano said Catholics appreciate Trump because of the large number of Catholics in his life and administration. As examples, she listed Vice President Mike Pence, who was raised in the Catholic faith and has identified as a “born-again, evangelical Catholic,” along with first lady Melania Trump, the nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Callista Gingrich.
Luevano described Pence as an ally and supporter of Catholics who guides the president, but her voice shows the most enthusiasm when she talks about the first lady.
“Melania Trump has been the first vocal, out-loud first lady of the United States since Jackie Kennedy to represent the Catholic community. That means so much to Catholics, Luevano said. “When she went to visit the Vatican, we saw what every Catholic has in their home. We saw the rosary, the Bible and her making the sign of the cross.”
In Trump’s large, close-knit family, Hispanic Catholics also see a home that reflects their own, she said. Hispanic Catholic voters respect family unity.
Trump’s policies on religious freedom, abortion and fighting human trafficking align with Catholic principles, said Luevano. By making it OK to say “Merry Christmas,” standing up for religious freedom worldwide, nominating pro-life Supreme Court justices and signing executive orders to fight human trafficking, Trump has impressed many Catholic voters, she added.
The Biden campaign said that, if elected, his administration would allow federal tax dollars to go toward funding of abortion overseas, a reversal of the Mexico City policy, and would work with Congress to codify Roe v. Wade to preserve access to abortion nationwide.
Biden said he would also repeal religious exemptions that he believes discriminate against the LGBT community. Such policies would force doctors to performs trans surgeries or perform abortions.
Similarly, the former vice president said he would repeal a proposed rule implemented by the Trump administration that allows religious adoption agencies to refuse to place children into the homes of same-sex adults.
Although she said she likes many of Trump’s policies, Luevano feels ambivalent about Trump’s focus on stopping illegal immigration and building a border wall. The grandparents of many people she knows are from South America and crossed the border to enter the U.S., she said. But more border security will also have benefits.
“It’s been something that’s a hard issue to swallow. It’s a double-edged sword as a Latino,” she said. “What we don’t talk about in border security is the dangers it brings. Drugs, weapons and harm that’s being done to Border Patrol agents. The dangers of lax border security is harmful for America.”
When the border isn’t secure, the vulnerable face dangers from cartels, human trafficking and drug smuggling. Agents of the Border Patrol also risk being shot while doing their work, Luevano said. Most border agents are Hispanic, she stressed.
As Luevano and other Catholics navigate politics, they pray for Trump to keep America great, she said. But they’re praying for everyone.
“These issues we’re seeing today, some can only be beaten by prayer. And our faith is stronger than the problems in this world,” she said. “We’re taught to be people of faith. Let your dogma live loudly within you.”