Election-watchers registered surprise in seeing an unexpectedly higher percentage of Hispanics in presidential exit polls who said they voted for President Donald Trump, who was unsuccessful in his re-election bid.
A Public Religion Research Institute survey of Hispanics found that, overall, the response of Hispanics to questions posed about Trump and some of his hot-button issues mirrored that of the election figures.
But the bigger surprise was the significant differences between Hispanic Catholics and their Protestant counterparts on virtually all those issues.
“A sizable minority of Hispanic Americans concur with Trump’s views,” based on PRRI’s 2020 American Values survey, said Natalie Jackson, PRRI research director. This includes 36 per cent who approved of the job Trump is doing as president, and 45 per cent who approved of his handling of the economy. Trump got lower approval marks from Hispanics on the coronavirus pandemic, 28 per cent, and dealing with racial justice protests, 31 per cent.
“There are not significant gender or age divides among Hispanic Americans when it comes to support for Trump. There are, however, distinctions by religious affiliation,” Jackson said.
Two examples: While majorities of Hispanic Protestants approved of Trump’s job performance and his handling of the economy, 57 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively, Hispanic Catholics gave Trump much lower numbers on those two issues – 27 per cent and 42 per cent.
“Religion is the largest demographic divider among Hispanic Americans, excepting only partisanship, and the data shows clearly that many have views that align with Trump and the Republican Party. It should come as no surprise, then, that many voted in that direction,” Jackson said.
Forty-one per cent of Hispanic Catholics identify as Democrats, more than independents (20 per cent), and Republicans (19 per cent) combined. Hispanic Protestants give Democrats third place on party identity at 28 per cent, although the numbers are closely bunched: 32 per cent identify as Republicans, 31 per cent as independents.
“Hispanic Protestants are much more likely to say they are ideologically conservative (39 per cent) than Hispanic Catholics (19 per cent) or those who are religiously unaffiliated (12 per cent),” Jackson said. “There are not significant divisions between these religious groups by age or education.”
Overall, 35 per cent of Hispanics surveyed by PRRI support building a wall at the southern border with Mexico to keep immigrants out, “but nearly half of Hispanic Protestants (48 per cent), compared to 34 per cent of Hispanic Catholics and 15 per cent of Hispanics who are religiously unaffiliated, agree,” Jackson said.
Similarly, 45 per cent of Hispanic Protestants support a law preventing refugees from entering the country, compared to 31 per cent of Hispanic Catholics and 13 per cent of religiously unaffiliated Hispanics.
Twenty-five per cent of US Hispanics polled by PRRI voiced support of the Trump administration’s policy of family separation at the border, the same percentage as that of Hispanic Catholics. By comparison, 32 per cent of Hispanic Protestants, and 17 per cent of religiously unaffiliated Hispanics, took that view.
“There are also not large differences by religious group regarding support for policies that allow children who were brought into the country illegally to gain legal status,” known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, Jackson said.
“Hispanic Protestants (44 per cent) are less likely than all Hispanic Americans (60 per cent), Hispanic Catholics (68 per cent), and religiously unaffiliated Hispanics (73 per cent) to say that Trump has encouraged white supremacist groups,” the report said. “Hispanic Protestants are also more likely to say that police killings of Black Americans are isolated incidents (50 per cent) than Hispanic Catholics (33 per cent) and those who are religiously unaffiliated (22 per cent),” it added.
“There are not, however, significant differences in agreement that generations of slavery and discrimination have left Black Americans disadvantaged; majorities of all Hispanic groups agree. There are also no differences between Hispanics by religion regarding discrimination faced by Black, Hispanic, Asian or white people.”
A slight majority of Hispanic Protestants, though, – pegged at 52 per cent by PRRI – are more likely to say that Christians face a lot of discrimination. By comparison, 29 per cent of Hispanic Catholics, 26 per cent of religiously unaffiliated Hispanics, and 37 per cent of all US Hispanics say the same.
“The only other religious group among whom a majority agrees that Christians face a lot of discrimination is white evangelical Protestants,” at 66 per cent, Jackson said.
Picture: President Donald Trump is seen at the White House in Washington during a Thanksgiving video teleconference with members of the military forces on 26th November 2020. (CNS photo/Erin Scott, Reuters).