Compared to childhood religious affiliation, Hispanics today are equally more evangelical and more unaffiliated
WASHINGTON — Compared to the Democratic Party, Hispanics are twice as likely to volunteer negative associations about the Republican Party, are more than three times less likely to say the Republican Party cares about people like them, and are half as likely to say they feel closer to the Republican Party than they did in the past, a major new national survey of 1,563 Hispanics living in the United States finds.
Half of Hispanics identify as Democrats (50 percent), compared to 15 percent who identify as Republicans and roughly one-in-four (24 percent) who say they are politically independent, the new Hispanic Values Survey conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute finds. The survey’s release coincides with the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
“Republicans clearly have a serious brand and issue platform problem among Hispanics,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). “But the research also suggests that challenges remain for Democrats, who have not convinced a majority of Hispanics that the party has a strong stake in their concerns.”
While only about one-in-ten (12 percent) Hispanics say the phrase “cares about people like you” better describes the Republican Party, less than half (43 percent) of Hispanics say it better describes the Democratic Party, and 13 percent say it describes both equally. Nearly three-in-ten (29 percent) Hispanics, however, say the phrase “cares about people like you” does not describe either party.
Nearly half (48 percent) of the associations Hispanics volunteered about the Republican Party were negative, about four-in-ten (42 percent) were basically descriptive or neutral, and about one-in-ten (11 percent) were positive. By contrast, more than one-third (35 percent) of the associations Hispanics volunteered about the Democratic Party were positive, 42 percent were basically neutral or descriptive, and 22 percent were negative. Less than three-in-ten (29 percent) Hispanics report that they feel closer to the Republican Party than they did in the past, while nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Hispanics say the same about the Democratic Party.
The survey found strong support for immigration reform. A majority (53 percent) of Hispanics say immigration is a critical issue facing the country. Two-thirds (67 percent) of Hispanics say that immigrants currently living in the United States illegally should be allowed to become citizens, provided they meet certain requirements. Roughly one-in-five (17 percent) say they should be allowed to become permanent legal residents but not citizens, while one-in-ten (10 percent) say that they should be identified and deported. A majority (54 percent) of Hispanic likely voters say they would be less likely to vote for a 2014 congressional candidate who opposes immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally.
On economic policy, Hispanics favor a public investment approach to spurring economic growth over a tax-cutting approach by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio. Roughly six-in-ten (58 percent) Hispanics believe that spending more on education and the nation’s infrastructure and paying for it with higher taxes among wealthy individuals and businesses is the best way to promote economic growth. One-third (33 percent) of Hispanics disagree, saying the best way to boost economic growth is to lower taxes on individuals and businesses and to pay for those tax cuts by cutting spending on government services and programs.
“The survey highlights the important rise of religiously unaffiliated Hispanics in America,” said Juhem Navarro-Rivera, PRRI Research Associate. “While the media and political strategists have noted the increase in evangelical Protestant affiliation as Catholic identity has declined, most have ignored the growing numbers of unaffiliated Hispanics, who rival the size of evangelicals, and are a critical part of the future of Hispanic politics.”
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).
Additional information about the changing religious profile of Hispanic Americans, their political priorities and their attitudes toward economic and social issues are summarized below and available in the full report.
Among the findings:
The 2014 Election Cycle
At this very early stage in the 2014 election cycle, Hispanic likely voters report preferring Democratic congressional candidates to Republican congressional candidates by a 2-to-1 ratio (58 percent vs. 28 percent). Among likely Hispanic voters, a majority (54 percent) say they would be less likely to support a candidate who opposes immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for immigrants who are currently living in the country illegally. One-in-four (25 percent) say they would be more likely to vote for such a candidate, and 19 percent report that the candidate’s views on immigration would make no difference in their vote.
The Changing Religious Profile of Hispanics
A majority of Hispanics identify as Catholic (53 percent), one-quarter (25 percent) identify as Protestant—nearly evenly divided between evangelical Protestant (13 percent) and mainline Protestant (12 percent)—and 12 percent of Hispanics are religiously unaffiliated. Few Hispanics (six percent) identify with a non-Christian religion.
Hispanics generally have a more favorable impression of Pope Francis than of the Catholic Church, although this favorability gap virtually disappears among Catholics. Nearly seven-in-ten (69 percent) Hispanics have a favorable view of Pope Francis, compared to 54 percent who have a favorable view of the Catholic Church. Among Catholics, more than eight-in-ten (84 percent) have a favorable view of the current pope, and roughly as many (81 percent) have a favorable view of the Catholic Church.
Political Priorities and Immigration Reform
Like Americans overall, Hispanics are most likely to rank jobs and unemployment (72 percent) as a critical issue facing the country today. However, nearly as many Hispanics (65 percent) report that rising health care costs are also a critical issue facing the nation. Majorities of Hispanics say the quality of public schools (55 percent), the federal deficit (54 percent), the cost of college (53 percent), and immigration (53 percent) are critical issues facing the country. Fewer Hispanics say the growing gap between rich and poor (43 percent), abortion (32 percent), and same-sex marriage (22 percent) are critical issues in the country today.
There is bipartisan and cross-religious support for immigration reform among Hispanics. For example, majorities of Hispanic Democrats (72 percent), independents (67 percent), and Republicans (53 percent) support a path to citizenship.
The American Dream and Opportunity
Strong majorities of Hispanics believe that the U.S. economic system unfairly favors the wealthy (72 percent) and that hard work and determination do not guarantee success for most people today (60 percent). At the same time, a majority (56 percent) of Hispanics believe that children from all backgrounds have adequate opportunities to be successful in America today. Hispanics who are non-citizens (65 percent) and Hispanics who are naturalized citizens (63 percent), however, are significantly more likely than native-born Hispanics (51 percent) to believe that in the United States children from all income groups have adequate opportunities to be successful.
Economic Issues: Role of Government and Health Care
More than seven-in-ten (72 percent) Hispanics agree the government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, compared to 25 percent who disagree. Nearly six-in-ten (57 percent) Hispanics agree that it is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves, compared to 40 percent who disagree, though a majority (56 percent) believe that most people who receive welfare are taking advantage of the system.
Most Hispanics support the principle of a government guarantee of health care, but they are divided on Obamacare. Nearly six-in-ten (58 percent) Hispanics agree that the government should guarantee health care for all citizens, even if it means raising taxes, compared to 39 percent who disagree. At the same time, nearly half (48 percent) of Hispanics support repealing and eliminating the 2010 health care law known as Obamacare, while about as many (47 percent) oppose repealing the law.
Social Issues: Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion
Hispanics are on different sides of the cultural divide on the issues of same-sex marriage and abortion. A majority (55 percent) of Hispanics favor allowing gay and lesbian Americans to marry, compared to 43 percent who are opposed. By contrast, a majority (52 percent) of Hispanics say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, compared to 46 percent who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Hispanic support of same-sex marriage exists amidst reservations about the morality of sex between two adults of the same gender. Hispanics are twice as likely to believe that sex between two adults of the same gender is morally wrong as believe it is morally acceptable (45 percent vs. 18 percent). Roughly one-third of Hispanics say either that it depends on the situation (eight percent) or that it is not a moral issue (26 percent).
Hispanics have a nuanced, situational view of the morality of having an abortion. Hispanics are three times more likely to say that abortion is morally wrong than to believe it is morally acceptable (32 percent vs. nine percent). However, nearly half (48 percent) say their moral evaluation of abortion depends on the situation, and nine percent say that having an abortion is not a moral issue.
Hispanics are sharply divided by religion on the issue of same-sex marriage. More than eight-in-ten (62 percent) Hispanic Catholics and eight-in-ten (80 percent) religiously unaffiliated Hispanics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Hispanic mainline Protestants are divided, with 47 percent supporting same-sex marriage and 50 percent opposing it. In stark contrast, nearly eight-in-ten (79 percent) evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage, while just one-in-five (21 percent) support it.
Hispanics are also sharply divided by religion on the issue of abortion. Less than half (47 percent) of Hispanic Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases; a majority (52 percent) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Mainline Protestants have a similar profile to Catholics on this issue. Evangelical Protestants have the most conservative footprint of any religious group on this issue, with nearly three-quarters (74 percent) saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. By contrast, nearly seven-in-ten (69 percent) religiously unaffiliated Hispanics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Hispanic Catholics report more freedom to deviate from official church teachings on homosexuality than on abortion. A slim majority (51 percent) of Hispanic Catholics say it is possible to disagree with church teachings on the issue of homosexuality and remain a good Catholic, compared to 44 percent who say this is not possible. However, less than four-in-ten (39 percent) Hispanic Catholics say it is possible to disagree with church teachings on abortion and still be considered a good Catholic, compared to a majority (55 percent) who say this is not possible.
The Hispanic Values Survey was designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and made possible by generous funding from the Ford Foundation, with additional support from the New World Foundation. The survey was conducted among a random sample of 1,563 Hispanic adults (age 18 and up) living in the United States and who are part of GfK’s Knowledge Panel. Interviews were conducted online in both English and Spanish between August 23 and September 3, 2013. Thirty-five percent of the interviews were completed in Spanish. The margin of sampling error for the entire sample is +/- 3.7 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.