By: Pew Research
Although most U.S. Hispanics continue to belong to the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic share of the Hispanic population is declining, according to a national survey of more than 5,000 Hispanics. Meanwhile, rising numbers of Hispanics say they are Protestant or are unaffiliated with any religion. Indeed, 24% of Hispanic adults are now former Catholics, with changes in religious affiliation occurring primarily among Latinos ages 18 to 49. Among Latino immigrants who have switched religions, about half did so before coming to the U.S. The survey also finds that in every major religious group, more Latinos favor the Democratic Party than the
Republican Party, though there are some differences in party affiliation across groups.
The long-term decline in the share of Catholics among Hispanics may partly reflect religious changes underway in Latin America, where evangelical churches have been gaining adherents and the share of those with no religious affiliation has been slowly rising in a region that historically has been overwhelmingly Catholic.4 But it also reflects religious changes taking place in the U.S., where Catholicism has had a net loss of adherents through religious switching (or conversion) and the share of the religiously unaffiliated has been growing rapidly in the general public.5
Hispanics leaving Catholicism have tended to move in two directions. Some have become born-again or evangelical Protestants, a group that exhibits very high levels of religious commitment. On average, Hispanic evangelicals – many of whom also identify as either Pentecostal or charismatic Protestants – not only report higher rates of church attendance than Hispanic Catholics but also tend to be more engaged in other religious activities, including Scripture reading, Bible study groups and sharing their faith.
At the same time, other Hispanics have become religiously unaffiliated – that is, they describe themselves as having no particular religion or say they are atheist or agnostic. This group exhibits much lower levels of religious observance and involvement than Hispanic Catholics. In this respect, unaffiliated Hispanics roughly resemble the religiously unaffiliated segment of the general public.
Hispanic Catholics are somewhere in the middle. They fall in between evangelicals and the unaffiliated in terms of church attendance, frequency of prayer and the degree of importance they assign to religion in their lives, closely resembling white (non-Hispanic) Catholics in their moderate levels of religious observance and engagement.
These three Hispanic religious groups also have distinct social and political views, with evangelical Protestants at the conservative end of the spectrum, the unaffiliated at the liberal end and Hispanic Catholics in between.