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Commentary: Latinos, religion and the Campaign of 2012

Commentary: Latinos, religion and the Campaign of 2012

By Frank X. Moraga
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Survey says: Catholics strongly favor Obama. Evangelicals divided. Rapidly growing Latino support for same-sex marriage

After a lively political debate this week, President Barack Obama and Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney have been busy hitting key swing vote states, hammering home their messages during the final weeks of Campaign 2012.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center shows that potential voters are not only divided by race, wealth and liberal vs. conservative positions, but by religion as well, especially within the Latino community.

Three-quarters (73 percent) of Latino Catholics and eight-in-ten (82 percent) religiously unaffiliated Latinos support President Barack Obama’s re-election. However, among Latino evangelical Protestants, who account for 16 percent of all Latino registered voters, just 50 percent prefer Obama, while 39 percent support his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, the center reported in its survey on Thursday.

These same patterns are reflected in Latinos’ partisan affiliations, the center reported.

Eight-in-ten (81 percent) religiously unaffiliated Latino voters (who make up 15 percent of the Latino electorate) and seven-in-ten (71 percent) Latino Catholics (57 percent of the Latino electorate) are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party. Among Latino evangelical voters, identification with the Democratic Party is lower — about half (52 percent) are Democrats or lean Democratic, while about a third (36 percent) are Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party.

Many Hispanic churchgoers say they are hearing from their clergy about various political issues and, to a lesser extent, about candidates and elections, the center reported.

Roughly half (54 percet) of Hispanics who attend religious services at least once a month say they have heard their clergy speak out about abortion, while 43 percent have heard from the pulpit about immigration, and 38 percent say their clergy have spoken out about homosexuality. A smaller proportion, roughly three-in-ten (29 percent), report hearing from their clergy about candidates and elections.

The new survey also finds rapidly growing support for same-sex marriage among Latinos, mirroring growing support among the general public, the center reported.

Half (52 percent) of Latinos now favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while one-third (34 percent) are opposed. As recently as 2006, these figures were reversed (56 percent of Latinos opposed same-sex marriage, while 31 percent supported it). Latino evangelicals, however, remain strongly opposed to same-sex marriage (66 percent opposed vs. 25 percent in favor), the center reported…

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