Ahead of the release of Pope Francis’ first major encyclical Laudato si, dealing with global warming, Republican politicians have been falling all over themselves trying to say they know how to do his job better than he does.
It’s particularly fun when this kind of reaction comes from Catholic pols, some of whom seem to think they’re literally more Catholic than the pope. On the other hand, nobody gives a crap about Rick Santorum. No, the real action has been with the probably-has-a-chance-to-win,-sort-of establishment candidate Jeb Bush, who had this to say:
I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or from my pope…I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things that end up getting into the political realm.
Bush later hedged a little bit, but remains a skeptic on Francis’ proposals.
A cynic might think that there’s only one number that drives a position like Bush’s: the total donations from well-heeled donors opposed to climate change legislation. But there’s a little more to it than that.
Bush doesn’t have much to worry about in a Catholic backlash. Here’s why. Majorities of Catholics across the board say that global warming is “somewhat” or “very much” of a problem:
But when asked whether they thought climate change was real, and if so what causes it, a difference appears among Catholics: just 31% of conservatives think global warming is definitely caused by humans. The remaining two-thirds think it’s not happening, or if it is, it’s natural causes, or they’re just not sure.
The numbers attributing warming to human activity rise among moderates and liberals, of course, but they’re not going to vote for Jeb anyway.
There is one number Bush might want to worry about, though: 85. That’s the percent of Hispanic Catholics who think climate change is a real problem:
For a guy who’s been touting his potential to draw Spanish-speaking voters into the Republican fold, this is a sticky situation. Hispanic Catholics, as it turns out, actually care about the environment, and so does the first pope from Latin America. Bush is working at cross-purposes, claiming to speak for Hispanic values while ignoring at least one of their issues. He wouldn’t be the first politician to try to pull a fast one like this, but we’ll see how far he gets. If he’s as effective with immigration as he has been with climate change, he’s screwed.
For funsies, I pulled the numbers for Protestants from the same study. The situation between conservatives and liberals looks about the same as it does with Catholics:
It does with Hispanics, too:
It’s the Evangelicals dragging everyone to the right. It’s always the Evangelicals.