Poll: Young Hispanics Less Likely to Be Catholic

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Trevor Tompson, Saramento Bee, August 10, 2010

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An Associated Press-Univision poll finds that younger Latinos, as well as those who speak more English than Spanish, are much less likely to identify as Catholics than older Hispanics who mostly speak Spanish.

The poll of 1,500 Latino adults also found significant divisions on social issues such as same-sex unions and abortion, along lines of age, language and whether one is Catholic or Protestant.

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Overall, 62 percent of Hispanics identify as Catholic, but that includes only 55 percent of young adults 18 to 29, compared with 80 percent of elders 65 and over.

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Protestants are twice as likely to attend weekly services, according to the poll, also sponsored by The Nielsen Company and Stanford University. Many worship in evangelical or Pentecostal churches.

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Seventy percent of Hispanic Protestants said the Bible is the actual word of God, to be taken literally, compared with 46 percent of Hispanic Catholics. Just 26 percent of Protestants said abortion should be mostly legal, compared with 41 percent of Catholics. And 59 percent of Protestants said same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry, compared with 29 percent of Catholics.

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The poll found a large generation gap on same-sex marriage, with 46 percent of Hispanics ages 18 to 29 saying same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, compared with less than one-third of those in older age groups.

Same-sex marriage seems to be gaining acceptance in Latin America. Last month, Argentina became the first South American nation to allow it. Gay marriage is also legal in Mexico City, while same-sex civil unions granting are allowed in Uruguay and in some states in Mexico and Brazil.

On another divisive issue, the poll found markedly less support for legal abortion among Latinos than among Americans overall. Thirty-nine percent of Hispanics said abortion should be mostly legal, compared with 51 percent of the general population in a 2009 AP-GfK poll.

But there are big disagreements among Latinos. Forty-nine percent of those who speak mainly English said abortion should be legal in most cases, about the same as the proportion of the general U.S. population holding a similar view. Hispanics who mainly speak Spanish were far more conservative, with only 31 percent saying abortion should be mostly legal.

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