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Evangelicals Now Have More Competition for Hispanic Catholic Converts

Hispanic Values Survey adds new wrinkle to research on Latino religious life in America.
Evangelicals Now Have More Competition for Hispanic Catholic ConvertsPublic Religion Research Institute

A new survey sheds more light on the ongoing trend of many Hispanic Catholics becoming evangelicals in America. Seems the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated are now an equal destination.

Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) recently surveyed more than 1,500 Hispanic American adults on their political and religious affiliations and values. One conclusion:

Compared to their childhood religious affiliations, Hispanics are significantly less Catholic but are in equal measure becoming more evangelical Protestant and more religiously unaffiliated.

Catholic affiliation has dropped by 16 percentage points (from 69 percent in childhood to 53 percent today). Evangelical Protestant affiliation has increased by six percentage points (from seven percent in childhood to 13 percent today), while the percentage of those claiming no religious affiliation has increased by seven percentage points (from five percent in childhood to 12 percent today).

"The [media and academic] narrative has often emphasized Catholics converting to evangelical or charismatic forms of Protestantism," notes PRRI. "The Hispanic Values Survey reveals that this is only half of the story."

PRRI, which released the report today at the annual conference of the Religion Newswriters Association, puts the current breakdown among U.S. Latinos as still majority Catholic (53%), but now one-quarter Protestant (25%) and one-tenth religiously unaffiliated (12%). Protestants are "nearly evenly divided" between evangelical (13%) and mainline (12%) Christians.

Examining attitudes among Hispanic evangelicals (among other religious affiliations), PRRI asked on which topics people believe they can disagree with church teachings and still be considered a good Christian.

More than half of Latino evangelicals (59%) say this regarding contraception, but only 29 percent say this regarding abortion, and only 24 percent say this regarding homosexuality. By comparison, among all American Latinos, 66 percent believe this regarding contraception, 39 percent regarding abortion, and 47 percent regarding homosexuality.

PRRI also found that Hispanic American evangelicals are roughly split between identifying most closely with Republicans (43%) and Democrats (49%), and twice as many have a favorable view of Pope Francis (51%) than of the Catholic Church (26%).

In February, Gallup found significant differences not only in religiosity between Latino Protestants and Catholics in the United States, but in how much each group is losing adherents to the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated. CT reported the details, but in short: The rise of religious "nones" is affecting Hispanic Catholics much more than Hispanic Protestants.

CT has regularly reported on Latinos, including previous research on Hispanic religiosity, recent evangelical efforts to better understand Hispanics, and whether an immigration slowdown will prompt a bilingual ministry bust.

CT also previously noted the growing "intensity gap" between American Catholics and Protestants.

Posted:September 27, 2013 at 4:05PM
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