The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States
Chapter 9: Social and Political Views
Opposition to same-sex marriage among Latinos has declined in recent years, mirroring a trend seen in the U.S. general public. However, there are significant differences among religious groups, with religiously unaffiliated Latinos particularly likely to support same-sex marriage and Latino evangelical Protestants especially likely to oppose it.
Roughly half of Hispanics say abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances, while four-in-ten say it should be legal. Among the general public, the balance of opinion is reversed. Hispanic Catholics are less inclined than white, non-Hispanic Catholics to say that abortion should be legal.
More Hispanics now say that churches should stay out of political matters than said so in a 2006 Pew Research survey. The shift in views has occurred among all religious groups, but it is particularly pronounced among Hispanic mainline Protestants.
Hispanics tend to reject traditional gender roles when it comes to marriage and the family, as do a majority of Americans overall. But Hispanics are more evenly divided when it comes to whether men should be religious leaders in the family.
The partisan leanings of Hispanics are decidedly more Democratic than Republican. While Hispanic religious groups differ somewhat on party affiliation, all tilt more toward the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, including evangelical Protestants. There also is a consensus across Hispanic religious groups that a bigger government providing more services is preferable to a smaller government that provides fewer services.
Views About Same-Sex Marriage
Opposition to same-sex marriage among Latinos has declined in recent years, from 56% opposed in 2006 to 34% in this survey, mirroring a similar trend in the general public. In turn, there has been a rise in the share of Latinos who favor same-sex marriage, from 30% in 2006 to 46% in 2013. A larger share of Latinos (19%) than U.S. adults overall (8%) express no opinion on this issue.
There are sizable differences among Hispanic religious groups in views about same-sex marriage. Religiously unaffiliated Hispanics favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally by about a four-to-one margin (67% favor vs. 16% oppose). Likewise, more Hispanic Catholics favor same-sex marriage (49%) than oppose it (30%). Hispanic evangelical Protestants tilt in the opposite direction; they are much more inclined to oppose (66%) than to favor (19%) same-sex marriage. Mainline Protestants’ views on the issue are similar to those of Hispanics overall, with 37% opposed to same-sex marriage and 44% in favor of it.
Hispanics who attend worship services regularly are less inclined than those who attend less often to favor same-sex marriage, a pattern that also is found in the general public. About a third of Hispanics who attend services at least once a week (32%) favor same-sex marriage. By contrast, roughly two-thirds of those who seldom or never attend services (65%) support it. This pattern holds across major religious groups.
Foreign-born Hispanics tend to be less supportive than U.S.-born Hispanics of same-sex marriage. Hispanic immigrants are closely divided, with 39% saying they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally and 38% saying they oppose it; 24% do not express an opinion. By contrast, a majority of native-born Hispanics (58%) favor same-sex marriage, while about three-in-ten (29%) oppose it and 13% do not express an opinion.
This pattern also holds across religious groups, though differences by nativity are particularly large among Latino mainline Protestants. Nearly six-in-ten U.S.-born mainline Protestants (57%) favor same-sex marriage, compared with a quarter of foreign-born mainline Protestants.
Overall, Latino women are slightly more likely than Latino men to favor same-sex marriage.
Views About Abortion
About half of Hispanics (53%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances, while 40% say it should be legal. Among the general public, the balance of opinion is reversed: About half of American adults overall (54%) say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, while 40% say it should be illegal.
Latinos’ opinions about abortion have been fairly stable for about a decade; the same is true among the general public.
Among Latinos, major religious groups differ markedly in their views about abortion. Seven-in-ten Latino evangelical Protestants (70%) say abortion should be mostly or entirely illegal, while about a quarter (24%) say it should be mostly or entirely legal. Roughly half of Latino Catholics (54%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances, while nearly four-in-ten (38%) say it should be legal. Latino mainline Protestants are more evenly divided: 46% say abortion should be illegal and 45% say it should be legal in all or most circumstances. Religiously unaffiliated Latinos stand out for their greater acceptance of legal abortion; 58% say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, while 35% say it should be illegal.
Hispanics who attend worship services at least weekly are more likely than those who attend less often to oppose legal abortion. Among Hispanics who attend services at least once a week, 69% say abortion should be illegal, while a quarter say it should be legal in all or most circumstances. This pattern holds across religious groups.
Foreign-born Hispanics are more likely than U.S.-born Hispanics to say abortion should be illegal. About six-in-ten Hispanics born outside the U.S. (58%) say abortion should be mainly illegal; a third (33%) say it should be mainly legal. U.S.-born Hispanics are closely divided, with 49% saying abortion should be mostly or entirely legal and 45% saying it should be illegal.
Among Hispanics overall, there are no gender differences in views about abortion.
Catholics’ Views on Social Issues
There are some significant differences between Hispanic Catholics and white, non-Hispanic Catholics when it comes to views about abortion and same-sex marriage. Hispanic Catholics tend be more conservative than white Catholics in their views about abortion. About half of Hispanic Catholics (54%) say that abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances, compared with 44% of white Catholics.
Roughly similar shares of Hispanic Catholics and white non-Hispanic Catholics favor same-sex marriage (49% and 53%, respectively). However, Hispanic Catholics are less likely than white Catholics to oppose same-sex marriage (30% vs. 41%); about a fifth of Hispanic Catholics (21%) do not express an opinion on this issue.
Role of Church in Speaking Out About Social and Political Issues
Latinos are increasingly divided over the role that churches and other houses of worship should play in public debates over social and political issues. Compared with 2006, more Latinos now say that churches should stay out of political matters (37% in 2006, 44% in 2013). The share of Latinos who say that religious institutions should keep out of political matters (44%) is now nearly as large as the share who say such institutions should express their views on political and social issues (47%).
The balance of opinion on this question has shifted in the same direction among the general public. In Pew Research surveys prior to 2006, more Americans overall said churches should express their views on social and political matters than said churches should keep out of these issues; since 2006, opinion has tilted in the opposite direction. In 2012, for instance, 54% of the general public said churches should keep out of social and political matters, while 40% said churches should express their views.
There are sizable differences of opinion on this question among major religious groups. About six-in-ten Hispanic evangelical Protestants (61%) say churches should express their views on social and political issues, while a third (32%) say they should keep out of political matters. Greater shares of mainline Protestants (53%) and the religiously unaffiliated (57%) say churches should stay out of political matters. Hispanic Catholics are more evenly divided on this issue, with about half (49%) saying churches should express their views and 41% saying they should keep out of political issues.
Compared with 2006, fewer Hispanics in nearly every major religious group say churches should express their views on political and social matters. The shift is particularly pronounced for mainline Protestants, among whom 37% say churches should express their views on social and political issues and roughly half (53%) say they should keep out of political matters. In 2006, those percentages were reversed: 55% of mainline Protestants said churches should express their views on social and political issues and 35% said they should keep out.
Family and Gender Roles
Hispanics tend to reject a more traditional view of gender roles within marriage and the family. Most Hispanics say that a marriage with both husband and wife working and taking care of the house and children (79%) is preferable to a traditional arrangement with the husband as the financial provider and the wife taking care of the home (18%).
While the balance of opinion on this question is the same across major religious groups, Hispanic Protestants are somewhat more likely than either Catholics or the religiously unaffiliated to say a traditional marriage is a more satisfying way of life.
There are, at most, modest differences of opinion about marital roles by gender, age or nativity.
Hispanics appear to be no more likely than the U.S. general public to prefer traditional marriage roles. In 2010, a Pew Research survey that focused on marriage and family issues found that three-in-ten American adults preferred a marriage with the husband providing for the family and the wife taking care of the house and children, while 62% said a marriage where both spouses have jobs and both take care of the home and children was preferable. Hispanics in that 2010 survey expressed views similar to those of the general public, with 27% preferring a traditional marriage to one where both spouses have jobs and both take care of children and home needs (69%).
While a majority of both men and women disagree with the idea that husbands should have the final say, more women (67%) than men (59%) reject the statement.
Hispanic Protestants, both evangelical and mainline, are more inclined than either Catholics or the religiously unaffiliated to believe husbands should have the final say. And Hispanics who attend religious services more often are more inclined to say this than are those who attend less frequently.
There are at most modest differences by age or nativity in views about whether husbands should have the final say.
Two previous Pew Research surveys, conducted in 2002 and 2009, asked Hispanics about the same statement using different response options to register intensity of agreement or disagreement. While the findings are not directly comparable with this new survey, the balance of opinion was about the same, with more Hispanics disagreeing than agreeing that a husband should have the final say in family matters.
A similar gender difference was found in response to this question in both 2002 and 2009, with men more inclined than women to agree with the statement.
In contrast with beliefs about gender roles in marriage, Hispanics are more evenly divided when it comes to gender-based religious roles in the family. The 2013 Pew Research survey asked respondents to agree or disagree that “men have a duty to serve as the religious leaders in the marriage and family.” About half of all Hispanics (51%) either completely or mostly agree with this statement, while 45% disagree.
There are sharp differences on this issue among religious groups. A majority of Hispanic Protestants, especially evangelical Protestants, see men as having a duty to serve as religious leaders in the family. Three-quarters of evangelicals (75%) say this, as do 55% of mainline Protestants. Hispanic Catholics are closely divided, with 50% saying men have a duty to serve as religious leaders in the family while 46% disagree. A majority of religiously unaffiliated Hispanics (68%) reject the idea that men have a duty to serve as religious leaders in the family.
There are some differences on this question by age, with older Hispanics more inclined than their younger counterparts to say that men have a duty to serve as religious leaders in the family. But men and women hold similar views on this issue, as do U.S.-born and foreign-born Hispanics.
Political Party Affiliation
Overall, 56% of U.S. Hispanics either identify with the Democratic Party or are independents who lean Democratic, while 21% identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. About a fifth of all Hispanics (22%) do not lean toward either party.
Compared with the general public, more Hispanics tilt toward the Democratic Party or identify with neither party. Foreign-born Hispanics are less likely than those born in the U.S. to express a party affiliation.
While more Latinos in every major religious group favor the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, there are some differences in party affiliation across these groups. Three-in-ten evangelical Protestants (30%) identify as Republicans or lean toward the GOP, while 48% identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party. The religiously unaffiliated are particularly likely to identify as or lean Democratic (64%) over Republican (16%).
Similarly, there is a strong Democratic tilt in party identification across Hispanic origin groups. Dominicans are especially likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party over the GOP (80% vs. 7%). Compared with other Hispanics, Cubans are more Republican-leaning, but more Cubans identify with or lean toward the Democrats (48%) than the Republicans (33%). Cubans ages 50 and older are more evenly split in their party affiliation (39% Democratic or Democratic-leaning vs. 44% Republican) than are Cuban adults under age 50 (56% Democratic vs. 23% Republican). Cubans who are registered to vote are closely split in party affiliation: 47% identify with or lean toward the GOP, while 44% tilt toward the Democrats.
Role of Government
Majorities of all major religious groups prefer a larger government with more services to a smaller one providing fewer services. Compared with other religious groups, Hispanic Catholics are particularly supportive of a larger government.
Similarly, there are only modest differences among Hispanic origin groups, though Salvadorans and Dominicans tend to be more supportive of a bigger government than Cubans and Puerto Ricans.
There is somewhat less support for a bigger government among U.S.-born Hispanics (55%) compared with immigrants (75%).
Among the general public, the balance of opinion on this issue is reversed: About half of Americans overall (51%) prefer a smaller government, while 40% prefer a bigger government.
Latino women are slightly more likely than men to prefer a bigger government, a pattern that is also found in the general public.
Personal Life and Optimism About the Future
An overwhelming majority of Hispanics are satisfied with their personal life. Nearly nine-in-ten Hispanics (88%) are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal life; just one-in-ten are dissatisfied. There are no significant differences in life satisfaction among religious groups and, at most, modest differences among other subgroups of Hispanics.
Hispanics also tend to be more optimistic than pessimistic about the future. Overall, 72% of Hispanics expect their life to be better in 10 years than it is today, while just 6% think their life will be worse and 17% expect their life to be about the same.
Younger Hispanics tend to be more optimistic about the future than older Hispanics, a pattern that occurs across racial and ethnic groups in the general public. U.S.-born Hispanics, who on average are younger than foreign-born Hispanics, tend to be particularly optimistic about the future.
Among members of all major religious groups, about two-thirds or more are optimistic about the future. However, Hispanic Catholics tend to be somewhat less optimistic about the future than are evangelical Protestants or the religiously unaffiliated.