Sometimes, when asked why I typically vote Republican, I feel like Richard Gere (sans small mammal, of course) in An Officer and a Gentlemen shouting in pain, “I got nowhere else to go!” However, it seems many Catholics have found somewhere else to go.

David Gibson at Pontifications reports the Catholic party identification with Republican has been plummeting.

There is so much to chew over in the latest batch of data from the Pew Forum’s prodigious Religious Landscape Survey, but combine the Pew’s numbers on Catholic party affiliation with a lesser-noted new survey from Georgetown’s CARA institute, and the most important and eye-popping shift of all jumps right out: Namely, that the Republican party is losing–in droves–the Catholic voters who are critical to success in November and into the future.

The Pew numbers alone suggest the growing GOP losses among what is considered the biggest religious swing vote: A 2004 Pew survey concluded that the historic Democratic dominance among Catholics was at an end, with Republicans “approaching parity with the Democrats among Catholics, who once were a heavily Democratic constituency. The Democratic margin has shrunk from 43%-to-38% in 1992 to 44%-to-41% today,” the 2004 report said. The data released yesterday (June 23) show that just 23 percent of Catholics identify as Republican, and 10 percent “lean” to the GOP, for a total of 33 percent, while 33 percent of Catholics identify as Democrats and 15 percent “lean” Democratic, for a total of 48 percent–a hefty 15 percent differential. Ten percent identified as independent, according to the Pew results.

Now check out the June 20 survey, “Election ’08 Forecast,” from CARA (the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) at Georgetown, and the shift is even more dramatic: Only 21 percent of Catholic voters (some 47 million adults) either strongly or weakly affiliate as a Republican today compared to 31 percent who identified as Republican in 2004.

By contrast, 38 percent of Catholic voters identify themselves, either strongly or weakly, with the Democratic Party, down just one percentage point from CARA’s numbers in 2004. In fact, even among weekly Mass attenders the Dems have a big edge, though not as large as in the wider Catholic community:

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When I see numbers about “Catholic” party identification I usually hold them suspect. Anyone can claim to be Catholic. But when I see that the democrats have an edge even among regular mass goers, I scratch my head.

Let me stipulate, the Republican party has been a continual source of frustration for me. But yet I hang in there because there are issues much more precious to me that tax policy and regulation. Innocent lives are at stake.

On judgment day I can take my comeuppance for being on the wrong side of immigration reform, supply side economics, or global warming. I don’t want the slaughter of innocents on the list.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Can’t take that chance.