Contrary to conventional wisdom, a narrow majority of Catholic voters opted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, according to a new analysis of data by a political scientist.
And among Hispanic Catholics, Clinton won by more than 50 points, the new research says.
Commentators have concluded that Catholics voted for Trump along with a majority of evangelical Christians on the basis of some post-election polls.
For example, The New York Times posted early exit-poll results that found Trump won 52 per cent of the Catholic vote compared to Clinton's 45 per cent.
CNN reported that Trump captured 50 per cent of Catholic voters as opposed to 46 per cent for Clinton. Neither outlet reported the differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic Catholics.
The new analysis of American National Election Studies data is by a political scientist at Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
Mark Gray, the director of polling at CARA who analysed the ANES data for a forthcoming book, said in an interview with America Magazine that in his view, the Catholic vote in the 2016 election was broadly split.
'I don't think we will ever really definitively know,' said Gray.
He said that the ANES data are more reliable than exit polls because political scientists collect it both before and after the election, and because individuals who work on exit polls often lack expertise in scientific polling.
Areas where the newly released data matched exit polls is on how Catholic voters broke down along age, geography, race and ethnicity.
Gray's analysis found that older Catholics overwhelmingly voted for Trump, while younger Catholics chose Clinton.
Geographically, Trump won the support of Catholic voters in the Northeast and Midwest, while the two candidates split Catholics in the South. Clinton beat out Trump among Catholics in the West, by 64 per cent to 25 per cent.
White Catholics backed Trump nationwide by 56 per cent to 37 per cent, according to the ANES data, while Hispanic Catholics, the fastest growing demographic in the US Church, backed Clinton 74 per cent to 19 per cent.
'Catholics, like all other Americans who develop partisanship, gravitate toward the issues within their party that are consistent with the Catholic Church," said Gray.
'So if you're a Democrat and a Catholic, you may strongly emphasise Pope Francis' statements about climate change or the preferential option for the poor,' he continued. 'If you are a Republican and a Catholic, life issues may be the most important to you.
'Party comes first for many Catholics and they then try to make that fit within their faith. I don't mean that in a way that being a Democrat or being a Republican is more important to them than being Catholic. But I mean that at the ballot box, partisanship trumps their faith when they make their choice. It should be a difficult choice for any Catholic to vote because no candidate, no party really stands for what the church stands for.'