December 27, 2002

Hispanics support church teachings on abortion, homosexuality

By Agostino Bono

WASHINGTON — A greater percentage of Hispanic Catholics agree with church teachings on divorce, abortion and homosexual activity than do non-Hispanic white Catholics, according to a national survey by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The survey also reported that Hispanics are assimilating rapidly into U.S. society from generation to generation, as judged by growing use of English and greater acceptance of mainstream social attitudes. Yet many Hispanics continue to hold firm to their support for stronger family ties and express concern about moral values their children are learning in the United States, it said.

“The melting pot is at work as the survey shows that the children of Latino immigrants are English-speakers and express views closer to the American mainstream than the immigrant generation,” Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, said at a Dec. 17 Washington news conference to release the survey.

The survey was based on a nationwide telephone poll of 2,929 Hispanic adults conducted last April 4 to June 11. It sought Hispanic attitudes on a wide range of social, economic and political issues.

A parallel survey of 1,008 non-Hispanic whites was also conducted to provide comparisons. The margin of error for the Hispanic survey is plus or minus 2.4 percent and plus or minus 3.3 percent for the non-Hispanic white survey.

Regarding religion, 70 percent of the Hispanics interviewed identified themselves as Catholics. Of these, 79 percent said abortion is unacceptable compared to 53 percent for white Catholics. Homosexual intercourse was judged unacceptable by 71 percent of the Hispanic Catholics and 50 percent of the non-Hispanic white Catholics.

Divorce was cited as unacceptable by 40 percent of the Hispanic Catholics and 23 percent of the non-Hispanic white Catholics.

Among all Hispanics, the survey reported a greater religiosity in foreign-born Latinos.

It said that 71 percent of foreign-born Hispanics regard religion as important in their everyday life as opposed to a 64 percent rating among U.S.-born Latinos. Regarding church attendance, 48 percent of foreign-born Latinos said they attend religious services at least once a week as opposed to 40 percent of the U.S.-born Hispanics.

Suro said that religion is important for Hispanics but not necessarily definitive in forming their social attitudes.

Regarding language, 72 percent of foreign-born Hispanics said they were predominantly Spanish-speaking, 24 percent said they were bilingual and 4 percent said they predominantly use English. These rates changed drastically among U.S.-born Latinos — 4 percent said Spanish was their main language, 35 percent said they were bilingual and 61 percent said English predominated.

“Spanish is endangered in assimilation,” said Suro.

The survey shows that Latinos are not resistant to learning English, he said.

The rapid growth of Spanish-language radio and television stations in the United States is due to the continued high flow of immigrants, said Suro.

According to the survey, 89 percent of all Hispanics said adult immigrants need to learn English to succeed in the United States.

Overwhelming numbers of Hispanics also felt that economic life was better in the United States than in their family’s country of origin.

The opportunity to advance is better in the United States, said 89 percent, and 68 percent said that treatment of the poor is better in the United States. When asked if their children will be better off economically then they are, 41 percent said they were very confident of this and 35 percent answered somewhat confident.

However, only 28 percent said that the moral values of society are better in the United States and 21 percent said that family ties are stronger in the United States.

When asked about discrimination, 44 percent said it was a major problem that keeps Hispanics from succeeding in the United States.

Latinos also reported a high degree of discrimination by Hispanics against other Hispanics. Forty-seven percent said this was a major problem among Latinos. Forty-one percent said discrimination was based on income and education, while 34 percent cited differences in country of origin and 8 percent cited skin color.

The survey reported little pan-ethnic identity among Hispanics, with 85 percent saying that Hispanics have separate and distinct cultures based on country of origin. Regarding political unity, 49 percent said Hispanics were not working together to reach common goals, while 43 percent said Hispanics were working together.

In terms of self-identification, 54 percent said they primarily describe themselves by their family’s country of origin, 24 percent said “Latino” or “Hispanic,” and 21 percent said “American.”

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