Testing the “Bailey Thesis”

State-level Reactions to a Catholic Presidential Candidate in California, Georgia, Michigan, and New York
  • Thomas J. Carty


“The Catholic vote is far more important than its numbers—about one out of every four voters who turn out—because of its concentration in the key states and cities of the North,” contended Theodore C. Sorensen, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy’s chief advisor, who catalyzed a controversial debate about American Catholics in his 1956 “Bailey Memorandum.” In Sorensen’s interpretation, fourteen states contained substantial Catholic populations that would vote overwhelmingly for a Catholic vice-presidential nominee. Sorensen included Michigan, New York, and California among these key “Catholic states” that would determine the presidential election. Although substantial anti-Catholic attitudes existed in the South, Georgia and the other southern states lacked sufficient electoral votes, Sorensen argued, to undermine a candidate’s success. Sorensen concluded that the Catholic vote essentially could determine the election’s results.1


Democratic Party Electoral Vote Presidential Campaign Democratic Nominee Religious Issue 
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© Thomas J. Carty 2004

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  • Thomas J. Carty

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