A new poll revealed that a religious transformation is underway among Hispanics in the United States, with fewer who are maintaining their Catholic faith while more are becoming religiously unaffiliated and evangelical.
The poll released last month by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) gauged the political and religious opinions of more than 1,500 Latinos and the findings indicated that the growing amount of Hispanics who are not connected with any religion rivals the rise in numbers of Latino evangelicals.
Out of those surveyed, 53 percent of Hispanics identify themselves as Catholics, compared with 69 percent who say they were raised Catholic as children but left their faith. In addition, 12 percent of those surveyed said they are not affiliated with a religion compared to 13 percent who said they were raised and continue to be evangelical.
"This seems to be related to the national trend in declining religious affiliation; while more research needs to be done to fully understand all the dynamics at play, it is clear that equal numbers of Hispanics are moving toward disaffiliation as toward evangelical affiliation," said Juhem Navarro-Rivera, research associate at PRRI and one of the authors of the Hispanic Values Survey.
According to Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), Latinos, much like American millennials, "undeniably reflect the lack of rigid connectivity to a denominational affiliation witnessed in previous church-going communities." In addition, he says religiously unaffiliated Hispanics in the U.S. still pursue God, contrast to what statistics may appear to indicate.
"The lack of commitment to a denomination does not speak to a generation apathetic to an encounter with God; quite the contrary," said Rodriguez. "This generation seeks a transparent faith, authentic relationships and a Christian narrative where leaders share both medals and scars."
The Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC), also shared the same thought with The Christian Post.
"The increase in religiously unaffiliated Hispanics is not a threat but a sign that more are becoming Christian; however, they are not affiliated with a particular denomination," said Rivera.
Similarly, he said the rise in evangelicals is also an indication of a larger movement taking place. According to Rivera, the rise of Hispanic evangelicals is partially due to those who migrate to the U.S. who already come with an established faith, since preachers and missionaries take the gospel to Latin American countries quite often.
According to Navarro-Rivera, most political strategists have ignored religiously unaffiliated Latinos, which he says are a critical part of the future of Hispanic politics, while adding that their rise indicates implications for both parties, especially the GOP. This was evident in the survey's findings that found that Latinos increasingly view the Republican Party negatively. Of those surveyed, 12 percent of Latinos said the phrase "cares about people like you" better described the Republican party, while 43 percent said the Democrats.
"Unaffiliated Latinos have liberal views on social issues. Evangelical Latinos are the most likely to identify as Republican, but a plurality still identify as Democratic. More importantly, Hispanics are very supportive of a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally, which may be affecting their attachment to the GOP," said Navarro-Rivera, referring to 67 percent of the survey's participants who stated their support for a path to citizenship.
Hispanics in the poll also said they were far more likely to vote for candidates based on their stances on immigration than on their stance on abortion or gay marriage.