A new Gallup poll released on Monday revealed that young Hispanics appear to be abandoning the traditional Catholic faith of their parents and turning more often to Protestant alternatives.
"A majority of Hispanics in America continue to identify as Catholic, although the Catholic percentage among Hispanics appears to be decreasing and the youngest Hispanics in America today are less likely to be Catholic than those who are older," Gallup stated about the implications of the results.
"Additionally, those Hispanics who are Catholic are much less religious than those who are Protestant."
The Gallup poll, which examined Latinos at large and those aged 18 to 29 years, revealed that more than 60 percent of Hispanic Protestants considered themselves very religious, while only 43 percent of Hispanic Catholics could say the same.
From the more general results, 40 percent of all Hispanic respondents said that they were very religious, while 29 percent indicated that they were moderately religious. Thirty-one percent noted they were not religious at all, which is consistent with national trends showcasing the rise of secularism in America.
Elderly Hispanics who responded to the poll were more likely to identify as Catholic – 60 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds and 61 percent of 65+ year olds said that they belong to the Roman Catholic Church. On the other hand, Protestant groups enjoyed the greatest numbers among Hispanics in the 18 to 29 age category, with 29 percent.
At the same time, the youngest age group in the poll was also likely to be the least religious, with 20 percent saying they have no religion or that they were unsure – while only 9 percent of those aged 65+ selected that answer. The least popular option across the board was other religion, with three to four percent of Hispanics identifying with that category.
The poll was based on more than 360,000 Gallup Daily tracking interviews between January 2012 and January 2013, with a random sample of 28,607 Hispanics from all 50 U.S. states, including D.C. Gallup said with 95 percent confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
The polling agency argued that the results create a potential for the Protestant Hispanic population to grow in numbers in the coming years, which would increase the average level of Hispanic religiosity in future years.
"You cannot help but notice the changing relationship between Hispanics and the Catholic Church," commented George Barna of the Barna Group, whose study found similar results in 2011. "While many Hispanic immigrants come to the United States with ties to Catholicism, the research shows that many of them eventually connect with a Protestant church."
The decline in Catholic adherents among Hispanics in America is another troubling factor for the Roman Catholic Church, which is currently in transition as it prepares to select a new leader to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who will officially step down on Feb. 28.