2018 Midterms: Catholic Vote Split, Pro-Life Amendments Adopted

Closely contested Senate elections featured abortion as a prominent issue; some pro-life victories were won in the House of Representatives.

(photo: PhilipR / Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON — The 2018 midterm elections saw the Catholic vote split evenly between the two main parties, while down-ballot measures to protect life and religious freedom were adopted by voters in several states.

According to Pew Research Center analysis of exit polls, the Nov. 6 midterms saw 50% of Catholics vote for Democrats, while 49% voted for Republicans. The figures represent a significant tightening between Catholic support for the two parties compared to previous midterm elections.

In the 2014 midterms, 54% of Catholic voters backed the GOP, with 45% supporting the Democrats.

Four years before that, in 2010, 54% of Catholic voters favored Republicans compared to 44% for Democrats. Those results were nearly the reverse of 2006’s percentages, where 55% of Catholics went for Democrats and 44% voted for Republicans.

Unlike other religious or faith demographics, Catholics do not tend to vote reliably en bloc. Evangelical Christians, by contrast, typically support Republican candidates and have done so for over a decade. In 2018, 2014 and 2010, more than three-fourths of these voters backed Republicans.

Away from the national results, several states had pro-life and religious liberty measures on the ballot.

In Alabama, both Amendment 1 and Amendment 2 passed by wide margins.

Amendment 1 proposed a specific constitutional guarantee that “a person is free to worship God as he or she chooses and that a person’s religious beliefs will have no effect on his or her civil or political rights.”

It also specifically provided for the public display of the Ten Commandments on government property “so long as the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed along with historical or educational items.”

Amendment 2 was proposed as an effective law-in-waiting should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which recognizes a constitutional right to abortion. With its passage, the Alabama Constitution now “recognizes and supports the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and provides that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

While the law will have no immediate effect because of the national applicability of Roe, should that decision be overturned and the issue of abortion returned to the individual states, it would prevent a state-level legal ruling from finding a similar constitutional protection for abortion in Alabama.

A similar measure was passed by voters in West Virginia. Amendment 1 on that ballot also amended the West Virginia Constitution to include a clarification that abortion would not be considered a right.

In Oregon, Measure 106 would have forbidden the use of public money to pay for an abortion, except in cases of medical danger to the mother’s life, but was rejected by voters. The Oregon proposal was put on the ballot following a public petition, while pro-life proposals in other states had the backing of state legislators.

A number of closely contested Senate elections also featured abortion as a prominent issue.

Democrat incumbent Joe Donnelly lost his Indiana seat to Republican challenger Mike Braun. Braun continually raised Donnelly’s voting record on abortion during a debate between the candidates, who were polling neck-and-neck.

Similarly, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp lost her seat to a pro-life challenger, Kevin Cramer. Despite running six years ago as a candidate opposed to government funded and late-term abortions, Heitkamp had a 100% voting record score from Planned Parenthood and repeatedly cast her ballot to continue funding the abortion provider.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, told CNA that although the Senate appears to have a solidly pro-life base of members, results in the House of Representatives were a source of concern.

“Now that Democrats control the House, we can expect the committee leadership to fall in line with the pro-abortion lobby, pushing an extremist agenda that undoubtedly includes undoing all the pro-life progress made by this administration.”

Mancini expressed her hope that any change in priority in the House would be offset by strong action by the Trump administration.

“President Trump should by default issue a veto threat anytime pro-life policies are stripped from legislation and continue to appoint pro-life leaders to fill critical positions within the administration.”

Despite these concerns, some pro-life victories were won in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., one of the few staunchly pro-life Democrats in Congress, faced an intense primary challenge, during which his opposition to abortion was repeatedly targeted by members of his own party.

In Tuesday’s vote, Lipinski was easily re-elected to his seventh term in Congress with 73.5% of the vote. Lipinski’s opponent, Arthur Jones, had been disavowed by the Illinois Republican Party due to his self-professed Nazi views.


This story was updated Nov. 9.