The United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month to recognize the achievements and contributions of the Hispanic population. Census data from 2020 show that there are more than 62 million Hispanics in the U.S., and the group accounts for about half the country’s growth over the past decade. Hispanic Americans make up nearly one-fifth (18.7%) of the U.S. population, and PRRI has been collecting data on their opinions of the future of the country, religious and racial pluralism, and major policy issues. Religion in particular is a key factor in how Hispanic Americans view the country.
Views on the Future of the United States
Hispanic Americans’ views about the country’s future vary. For example, the majority of Hispanic Americans (53%) and Hispanic Catholics (58%) agree that things have mostly changed for the better since the 1950s. By contrast, 55% of Hispanic Protestants say things have changed for the worse since the 1950s. Moreover, only three in ten Hispanic Americans (30%) say the country is headed in the right direction, with Hispanic Protestants (40%) being the most likely to think this way, compared to a smaller percentage of Hispanic Catholics (28%). Yet majorities of Hispanic Americans (55%) remain optimistic about the future: 62% of Hispanic Catholics and 53% of Hispanic Protestants say that America’s best days are ahead of us.
Support for Major Policy Changes
Most Hispanic Americans (76%), Hispanic Catholics (78%), and Hispanic Protestants (71%) agree that “because things have gotten so far off track in this country, we need major policy change to help everyday Americans.” More specifically, 83% of Hispanic Americans favor guaranteeing all Americans access to affordable childcare, 77% favor making college tuition free at public institutions, 74% favor guaranteeing all Americans a minimum income, and 71% favor creating a “Medicare for All” plan. In addition, half of Hispanic Americans (50%) think college is a smart investment. A majority of Hispanic Catholics (63%), but not of Hispanic Protestants (48%), say abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
Views on Immigration
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of Hispanic Americans (70%), including Hispanic Catholics (72%) and Hispanic Protestants (64%), favor allowing immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children, better known as Dreamers, to gain legal resident status. Majorities of Hispanic Americans (61%) and Hispanic Catholics (63%) also say that immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be allowed a way to become citizens if they meet certain requirements. Interestingly, Hispanic Protestants (50%) show the least support for a path to citizenship.
In addition, about two-thirds of all Hispanic Americans and Hispanic Catholics oppose building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico (65% and 66%, respectively) and oppose passing a law to prevent refugees from entering the U.S. (67% and 68%, respectively). Slightly fewer Hispanic Protestants oppose both immigration policies (52% and 54%, respectively). The vast majority of Hispanic Americans (75%), including Hispanic Catholics (74%) and Hispanic Protestants (68%), oppose an immigration border policy that separates children from their parents and charges parents as criminals when they enter the country without permission.
Views of the United States as a Christian Nation and Religious Diversity
When thinking about religion and the U.S. as a Christian nation, only three in ten Hispanic Americans (31%) say America has always been and is currently a Christian nation, compared to 42% who think America was a Christian nation in the past but is not now and 22% who think America has never been a Christian nation. Identical percentages of Hispanic Catholics think similarly, but Hispanic Protestants are more divided: 40% say it is currently a Christian nation, 38% say it used to be, and 20% say America has never been a Christian nation. Moreover, the majority of Hispanic Americans (57%) disagree that religion causes more problems in society than it solves, including two-thirds of Hispanic Protestants (67%) and Hispanic Catholics (66%). Indeed, half of Hispanic Americans (48%) agree it is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values, and majorities of Hispanic Protestants (59%) and Hispanic Catholics (58%) agree.
More than six in ten Hispanic Americans (62%) disagree with the idea that the rights and religious freedom of Christians have priority over the rights and religious freedom of non-Christians and non-religious Americans. Less than four in ten Hispanic Americans (38%) believe that the right of religious liberty is threatened in America today, and only one-third (33%) agree that their religious liberty is being threatened.
Views on Racism and Discrimination
There are notable divides among Hispanic Americans by religion saying that killings of African Americans by police are isolated incidents rather than part of a pattern of how police treat African Americans, with half of Hispanic Protestants (50%) thinking this way, compared to only one-third (33%) of Hispanic Catholics (36% of all Hispanic Americans hold this view). Moreover, half of Hispanic Americans (50%) and majorities of Hispanic Protestants (57%) and Hispanic Catholics (55%) say confederate monuments are more symbols of Southern pride than symbols of racism. By contrast, fewer Hispanic Americans (35%), Hispanic Protestants (41%), and Hispanic Catholics (45%) say the flag is a symbol of Southern pride rather than a symbol of racism.
Less than half of Hispanic Americans (41%), Hispanic Protestants (44%), and Hispanic Catholics (48%) disagree that generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for Black Americans to work their way out of the lower class. In addition, while 37% of Hispanic Americans, 40% of Hispanic Catholics, and 25% of Hispanic Protestants support reparations, majorities of Hispanic Americans favor affirmative action for both hiring (67%) and college admissions (64%).