Based on a vector wave theory of volume holograms, dependence of holographic reconstruction on the polarization states of the writing and reading beams is discussed. It is found that under paraxial approximation the circular polarization holograms provide a better distinction of the reading beams. Characteristics of recording polarization holograms in thick phenanthrenequinone-doped poly(methyl methacrylate) (PQ/PMMA) photopolymer are experimentally investigated. It is found that the circular polarization holographic recording possesses better dynamic range and material sensitivity, and a uniform spatial frequency response over a wide range. The performance is comparable to that of the intensity holographic recording in PQ/PMMA. Based on theoretical analyses and the material properties, a polarization multiplexing holographic memory using circularly polarization recording configuration for increasing storage capacity has been designed and experimentally demonstrated.