Do Latino Christians and Seculars Fit the Culture War Profile? Latino Religiosity and Political Behavior
According to the latest census information, Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, and are already a significant force in American politics. While Latinos voted strongly Democratic in 2008, both parties are increasingly competing for their support. One potent question is the potential importance to Hispanics of “culture war” wedge issues such as gay marriage and abortion.
A 2012 study published in Politics and Religion, “Do Latino Christians and Seculars Fit the Culture War Profile? Latino Religiosity and Political Behavior,” examines the political behavior of evangelical, Catholic and secular Latinos. The researchers, at the University of Southern Mississippi, sought to determine if the effect of religiosity on Latino voting patterns is similar to that of whites and African Americans, especially on “culture war” issues. The study utilizes data from a 2006 Pew survey of 4,016 Hispanic adults.
The study’s findings include:
- On issues such as abortion, gay marriage and ideology, secular and religious Latinos generally fit in the progressive and orthodox camps of the “culture war,” respectively. However, “this rightward effect is far more substantial for evangelical than committed Catholic Latinos.”
- “Evangelical Latinos are 24% more likely than secular Latinos, and 6% more likely than committed Catholic Latinos, to identify themselves as ideological conservatives, and are 12% more likely than committed Catholic Latinos and 18% more likely than secular Latinos to be Republicans,” while committed Catholic Latinos are no more likely than secular Latinos to identify as Republican.
- Compared to their secular counterparts, Evangelical Latinos are substantially more likely to oppose gay marriage and legal abortion in all cases, 42% and 24% respectively. For committed Catholic Latinos, the figures are 19% and 11%.
- On the issues of the death penalty, universal health insurance, and collective responsibility for the poor, “religion is a less robust factor, with evangelical Latinos moved in opposition to the death penalty, secular Latinos moved in support of universal health insurance, and [older] committed Catholic Latinos … moved in opposition to the death penalty.”
- Committed Catholic Latinos behave more like secular Latinos than evangelical Latinos concerning Israel and the Iraq War: “Evangelical Latinos are 20% more likely than secular Latinos to support U.S. involvement in Iraq, and 21% more likely to sympathize more with Israel than Palestine”; and “committed Catholic Latinos are 16% less likely than evangelical Latinos to support the Iraq War, and 13% less likely to sympathize more with Israel than Palestine.”
While political commentators often paint Latinos with a broad brush, particularly when speaking of “the Latino vote,” the researchers state, “Latino political behavior may not be nearly as cohesive as conventional wisdom holds.” The “culture war” dichotomy describes the split between the attitudes of evangelical and secular Latinos with some accuracy, but beyond abortion, the effect of religion on the political beliefs of committed Catholic Latinos is less categorical.
Related studies on Latinos and the election include “Cross-Pressures of Religion and Contact with Gays and Lesbians, and Their Impact on Same-Sex Marriage Opinion” and “Impact of Race and Ethnicity, Immigration and Political Context on Participation in American Electoral Politics.”
Tags: Hispanic, Latino, religion
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "Reaching Catholics."
- What key insights from the news article and the study in this lesson should reporters be aware of as they cover these issues?
Read the full study titled “Do Latino Christians and Seculars Fit the Culture War Profile? Latino Religiosity and Political Behavior.”
- What are the study's key technical term(s)? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
- Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
- What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.
Newswriting and digital reporting assignments
- Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
- Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
- Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
- Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.
Class discussion questions
- What is the study’s most important finding?
- Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
- What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
- How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
- How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in