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9 Insights About Catholics in the U.S., According to Pew Research

The Tablet Staff

The Pew Research Center unveiled a fresh fact sheet detailing nine key demographic and statistical insights into the Catholic population within the United States, compiled from extensive surveys conducted by the center.

Here’s a rundown of Pew’s findings on Catholics in the United States:

  1. Steady Identification: Over the past decade, approximately 20% of American adults have identified themselves as Catholics, a consistent figure. This translates to roughly 52 million individuals out of the total 262 million adult population in the U.S. Back in 2007, 24% of adults in the U.S. identified as Catholic.
  2. Hispanic Representation: One-third of all U.S. Catholics are of Hispanic descent. The overall demographic breakdown of the Catholic population in the U.S. is reported as 57% white, 33% Hispanic, 4% Asian, and 2% Black, with an additional 3% identifying as another race.
  3. Age Trends: While Catholic adults generally skew older compared to the overall American population, Hispanic Catholics tend to be younger. Less than half of Hispanic Catholics (43%) are aged 50 or older, in contrast to over half of white Catholics. Only 14% of Hispanic Catholics are 65 or older, compared to 38% of white Catholics.
  4. Regional Distribution: Approximately 29% of U.S. Catholics reside in the South, followed by 26% in the Northeast, 24% in the West, and 21% in the Midwest. Catholicism is experiencing growth particularly in the South and West, while seeing declines in the Midwest and the traditionally Catholic Northeast.
  5. Educational Attainment: About one-third of U.S. Catholics hold a bachelor’s degree, with another 28% having some college experience but not a bachelor’s degree. This distribution mirrors that of the general adult population, where 40% have a high school education or less.
  6. Worship Attendance: Only 28% of U.S. Catholics report attending Mass weekly or more frequently, compared to 40% of Protestants who attend weekly services. However, a larger percentage of Catholics (52%) say they pray daily, and nearly half (46%) consider religion to be very important in their lives.
  7. Political Affiliation: Roughly half of Catholic registered voters (52%) lean towards or identify with the Republican Party, while 44% affiliate with the Democratic Party. However, a significant portion of Catholic voters remain unaligned with either party.
  8. Views on Abortion: Around 60% of U.S. Catholics believe abortion should be legal, a stance that contrasts with the teachings of the Church. This includes 39% who believe it should be legal in most cases and 22% who believe it should be legal in all cases. Political leanings often influence Catholics’ opinions on this issue more than Church doctrine does.
  9. Pope Francis’ Approval: Three-quarters of Catholics in the U.S. hold a favorable view of Pope Francis, though this figure has decreased by 8% since 2021. While his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, initially had a lower approval rating, both popes fall short of the widespread approval enjoyed by Pope John Paul II during his tenure.