In a review of exit polls from CNN and MSNBC for the March 4th Democratic primaries, Senator Hillary Clinton won clear majorities of Catholic voters in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island. Senator Barack Obama won Catholics by a 4 point margin in Vermont.
In Ohio, a state where 22% of voters are Catholic, Senator Clinton won among Catholics by 63% to Senator Obama's 34-36%.
In Texas, a state where 30-32% of voters are Catholic, Senator Clinton won over Catholics in popular primary voting by 62-64%, to Senator Obama's 36-38%.
In Rhode Island, the state with the largest percentage of Catholics at 54% of the population, Senator Clinton won over Catholics by 66% to Senator Obama's roughly 33%.
In Vermont, a state where about 19% of the population is Catholic, Senator Obama received 52% of the Catholic vote to Senator Clinton's 47%.
Catholics have been decisive in other primary contests as well. While Senator Clinton had won the Catholic Democrat vote in the early primaries, Senator Obama has been closing the gap in recent weeks.
Catholic Democrats have been voting in record numbers in the primaries. In analysis done by veteran activist Steven Krueger for the Catholic Democrats, Catholics have been voting in numbers that exceed their proportion of the population. Roman Catholics represent between 20% and 25% of the US population. In some states, including New Hampshire and Wisconsin, Catholics have been voting at rates ten points above the participation level of the general population.
In an analysis of the primaries through February 19th, Catholics represented 29% of Democratic voters and 26% of Republican voters. In proportion to the total votes cast by Catholics in both parties, 67% of the votes, or 5.3 million votes, were cast by Catholics in the Democratic primaries, and 33%, or 2.7 million of Catholic votes were cast in Republican primaries.
"This data underscores the importance of the Catholic vote, " said Bill Roth, Communications Director for Catholics Democrats. "Catholics are the last true swing vote in America, and will turn out to be decisive in this election."