Should the U.S. be a ‘Christian nation’? White and Hispanic Catholics disagree on the answer.
New data offers insight into the beliefs of U.S. Catholics ahead of the midterm elections, with differences among white and Hispanic Catholics when it comes to how they view the role of Christianity in the United States and what they view as essential elements of their faith.
According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, most U.S. Catholics agree that religion is losing influence in public life, though there is a split between white and Hispanic Catholics. About three-quarters of all U.S. Catholics believe religion is losing influence, but a larger share of white Catholics, 84 percent, hold that view while just 67 percent of Hispanic Catholics agree.
New data offers insight into the beliefs of U.S. Catholics ahead of the midterm elections, with differences among white and Hispanic Catholics.
The survey also asked if the founders of the United States intended for the country to be “a Christian nation,” and found that 60 percent of Americans agreed. A slightly higher percentage of white Catholics, 68 percent, said yes, while just 54 percent of Hispanic Catholics agreed. Far lower percentages of both white Catholics (36 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (31 percent) think the United States is “a Christian nation” today while a majority of white Catholics, 56 percent, think the United States should be “a Christian nation,” a view shared by 36 percent of Hispanic Catholics.
But the report found that “Americans express widely varying ideas of what being a Christian nation means,” including “general guidance of Christian beliefs and values in society” and “being guided by beliefs and values, but without specifically referencing God or Christian concepts.”
Following the decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade earlier this year, a greater percentage of Americans believe the court is “friendly” toward religion compared with three years ago, rising to 35 percent from 18 percent in 2019. Catholics have also shifted in their view of the court, with 30 percent of Catholics saying the court is friendly to religion, compared with 13 percent three years ago.
78 percent of white Catholics said “living a moral life” is essential to their Christian faith, a view shared by 69 percent of Hispanic Catholics.
When it comes to the Biden administration, white Catholics view the White House as being “unfriendly” toward religion at higher rates (37 percent) than Hispanic Catholics (18 percent).
Asked if churches and religious organizations have “too much,” “about the right amount” or “not enough” influence in politics, a plurality of Americans (42 percent) said “too much.” But nearly half of white Catholics (48 percent) chose “about the right amount,” a view shared by 44 percent of Hispanic Catholics. (Nearly half of white evangelical Protestants, or 45 percent, said religion does not have enough influence in politics.)
The survey also asked respondents, “Thinking about the way things have been going in politics over the last few years on the issues that matter to you, would you say your side has been winning more often than losing or losing more often than winning?”
Majorities of all groups feel that “their side” on political issues has been “losing” more often than “winning.” Among all U.S. adults, 72 percent say that their side is losing more than it is winning, a view shared by 76 percent of white Catholics, 64 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 74 percent of those who are religiously unaffiliated.
The survey also asked about several characteristics associated with Christianity and asked if each was “essential” for living a Christian life. Majorities of both white and Hispanic Catholics agreed that “believing in God” is essential, though there were slight differences in other areas. About seven in 10 Hispanic Catholics said that having a “personal relationship with Jesus” is essential, compared with six in 10 white Catholics. Meanwhile, 78 percent of white Catholics said “living a moral life” is essential to their Christian faith, a view shared by 69 percent of Hispanic Catholics.
As churches across the country continue to struggle with attendance following Covid-19 safety precautions, the survey found that fewer than half of both white Catholics (24 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (36 percent) believe that attending religious services regularly is essential to their faith.
The report is based on data collected between Sept. 13 and Sept. 18, 2022, from 10,588 participants.
Correction (Oct. 28): A previous version of this article included an incorrect figure for the percentage of Hispanic Catholics who believe religion's influence in public life is declining. The correct number is 67 percent. The article was also updated to correct an incorrect figure about the percentage of Catholics who in 2019 said the Supreme Court was friendly to religion. The correct number is 13 percent.