Catholic and Unaffiliated Latinos Support Obama; Evangelicals Divided

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Latinos are divided by religion in their preferences in the upcoming presidential election, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Three-quarters of Latino Catholics (73%) and eight-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Latinos (82%) support President Barack Obama’s re-election. However, among Latino evangelical Protestants, who account for 16% of all Latino registered voters, just 50% prefer Obama, while 39% support his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

These same patterns are reflected in Latinos’ partisan affiliations. Eight-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Latino voters (who make up 15% of the Latino electorate) and seven-in-ten Latino Catholics (57% of the Latino electorate) are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party. Among Latino evangelical voters, identification with the Democratic Party is lower; about half are Democrats or lean Democratic (52%), while about a third are Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party (36%).

As the presidential election approaches, many Hispanic churchgoers say they are hearing from their clergy about various political issues and, to a lesser extent, about candidates and elections. Roughly half of Latinos (54%) who attend religious services at least once a month say they have heard their clergy speak out about abortion, while 43% have heard from the pulpit about immigration, and 38% say their clergy have spoken out about homosexuality. A smaller proportion, roughly three-in-ten (29%), report hearing from their clergy about candidates and elections.

The new survey also finds rapidly growing support for same-sex marriage among Latinos, mirroring growing support among the general public. Half of Latinos now favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while one-third are opposed. As recently as 2006, these figures were reversed (56% of Latinos opposed same-sex marriage, while 31% supported it). Latino evangelicals, however, remain strongly opposed to same-sex marriage (66% opposed vs. 25% in favor).

This report is jointly produced by two projects of the Pew Research Center, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Hispanic Center. It is based on a nationally representative bilingual telephone survey conducted Sept. 7-Oct. 4, 2012 (largely before the first presidential debate), among 1,765 Latino adults, including 903 registered voters. The Latino electorate today includes 23.7 million eligible voters – an increase of more than 4 million since 2008. Overall, Latinos now account for 11% of the nation’s eligible electorate, up from 9.5% in 2008.

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and public life in the U.S. and around the world. The Pew Hispanic Center is a nonpartisan research organization that seeks to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and to chronicle Latinos’ growing impact on the nation. Both are projects of the Washington-based Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, non-advocacy “fact-tank” that does not take positions on policy debates or any of the issues it covers.

The survey is available on the Pew Forum’s website.

Source: Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life; Pew Hispanic Center