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The New Pope is from the Americas: How Catholic are Americans?

The New Pope is from the Americas: How Catholic are Americans?

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The New Pope is from the Americas: How Catholic are Americans?
The New Pope is from the Americas: How Catholic are Americans?

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Published by: Alejandro Diaz-Dominguez on Jun 05, 2013
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 © 2013, Latin American Public Opinion Project
 AmericasBarometer:Topical Brief 
March 25, 2013
or the first time in history, a Pope hasemerged from the Americas. Theelection results came as a surprise to
many because even though half of the world’s
Catholics live in the Americas, only 29 percentof cardinal electors in the 2013 conclave werefrom that region. Yet, the new Pope comesfrom a Latin American country: Argentina.In the months to come, debates will revolvearound a myriad of expectations regarding thepossible impact that the new Pope, Francisco,might have on the Catholic Church around theworld. An especially relevant piece ofinformation in which these debates areembedded is the social base of any religion: thesize and composition of the faithful. Thus it isimportant to know how many they are, howthey behave, and how much they care aboutreligion.According to the most recent AmericasBarometer surveys carried out by the LatinAmerican Public Opinion Project (LAPOP)during the first half of 2012
 , in whichnationally representative samples of voting
Funding for the 2010 round mainly came from the UnitedStates Agency for International Development (USAID).Important sources of support were also the Inter-AmericanDevelopment Bank (IADB), the United NationsDevelopment Program (UNDP), and Vanderbilt University.Prior issues in the
s series can be found at:http://www.vanderbilt.edu/lapop/insights.php.The dataon which they are based can be found athttp://www.vanderbilt.edu/lapop/survey-data.php. 
aged adults were conducted in 26 countries ofthe Americas, respondents were asked abouttheir religion. The results regarding the percentof Catholic respondents are shown in Figure 1.
The question wording (q3c) reads: “What is your religion,if any?”
Response categories include a vast classification ofreligions in the Americas, in which Catholics are coded (1).
The New Pope is from the Americas: How Catholic are Americans?
By Alejandro Díaz-Domínguez, ITAM and Mitchell Seligson, Vanderbilt University
Figure 1. Catholics in the Americas, 2012
3.2%6.5%21.9%22.9%23.9%35.0%35.8%39.9%47.1%50.1%52.1%52.5%55.9%56.4%61.1%61.8%66.4%70.2%74.6%75.6%76.8%77.7%79.0%80.4%83.3%86.2%JamaicaGuyanaTrinidad & TobagoUnited StatesSurinameUruguayCanadaBelizeEl Salvador NicaraguaHondurasHaitiGuatemalaDom. Rep.PanamaBrazilChileCosta Rica ArgentinaColombiaBoliviaPeruVenezuelaEcuador MexicoParaguay0 20 40 60 80 100
% of Catholic Respondents
95% Confidence Interval (Design-Effects Based)
Source: © AmericasBarometer by LAPOP
© 2013, Latin American Public Opinion Project
The traditional overwhelmingly Catholiccountries (at the national level) score at the top,such as Paraguay, Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela,Peru and Colombia, whereas practically all theEnglish speaking countries score near the bottom: Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad andTobago, the US, and Suriname. It is noteworthythat more than three quarters of Argentineans,
the Pope’s fellow countrymen and women,
report identifying as Catholic, a figure thatsharply contrasts with specific religious behaviors as we will show in the followinggraphs.Church attendance can indicate how deeply feltreligious identification is in behavioral terms.The newly elected Pope comes from a countryin which, as we have shown, most people areCatholic, but as we show here, few actuallyattend Church on a regular level. Levels ofchurch attendance among Catholics across theAmericas vary sharply from country tocountry, as shown in Figure 2.
 Central American Catholics are likely to attendmass almost every week, whereas Catholicsfrom the three well-known religiously liberalSouth American nations, Chile, Uruguay andArgentina go to mass less than once a month onaverage (the respondents in the US and Canadawere not asked this question).Another important religious attitude refers tothe link between parishioners and their
communities, giving us a measure of “religious
social capital
such as levels of attendance inreligious groups, as shown in Figure 3.
The question
wording (q5a) reads: “How often do youattend religious services?”
. Response categories are morethan once per week, once per week, once a month, once ortwice a year, and never or almost never.
The question wording (cp6) reads: “
I am going to read alist of groups and organizations. Please tell me if youattend their meetings at least once a week, once or twice amonth, once or twice a year, or never: meetings of anyreligious organization? Do you attend them...
Figure 2. Catholic Attendance in the Americas,2012
Uruguay ArgentinaChileVenezuelaParaguayJamaicaMexicoEcuador Costa RicaBoliviaColombiaGuyanaNicaraguaHondurasEl Salvador GuatemalaPeruTrinidad & TobagoPanamaBrazilDom. Rep.BelizeHaiti
0 20 40 60 80
Church Attendance
95% Confidence Interval (Design-Effects Based)
Source: © AmericasBarometer by LAPOP
© 2013, Latin American Public Opinion Project
Once again, the Pope’s native Argentina scores
near the bottom of the list. Central AmericanCatholics score far higher.How much Catholics in the Americas careabout religion also varies, as shown in Figure4,
in which levels of importance of religion inthe lives of the Catholic respondents is shown.Interestingly, although the US is typicallyconsidered as a very religious country, it rankslow in comparison to countries in LatinAmerica and the Caribbean. Argentina is nearthe bottom. Central American countries againscore at the top.
The question wording (q5b) reads: “Please, could you tellme how important is religion in your life?”.
Responsecategories are very important, rather important, not veryimportant, and not at all important.
Church attendance however suggests adifferent scenario, in which all things equal,on average Catholics go to church lessfrequently when compared to non-Catholics.Similar behavior is reported for participationin religious groups, as shown in Figure 5.Overall, however, Catholics in the Americasare more likely to score higher when talkingabout how important religion is in their lives,when compared to non-Catholics.These pieces of evidence mainly suggest aspiritual continent, one now captivated withthe first Pope from the region.
Figure 3. Catholic Attendance Religious Groups,2012
Uruguay ArgentinaChileVenezuelaGuyanaEcuador Costa RicaMexicoBoliviaJamaicaColombiaNicaraguaParaguayEl Salvador HondurasGuatemalaCanadaUnited StatesPanamaBelizePeruTrinidad & TobagoBrazilDom. Rep.Haiti
0 20 40 60 80
Religious Groups
95% Confidence Interval (Design-Effects Based)
Source: © AmericasBarometer by LAPOP
Figure 4. Importance of Religion, Catholics,2012.
Uruguay ArgentinaChileMexicoVenezuelaBoliviaEcuador Costa RicaColombiaHondurasGuyanaParaguayJamaicaNicaraguaGuatemalaEl Salvador CanadaUnited StatesTrinidad & TobagoPeruBelizeHaitiBrazilPanamaDom. Rep.
0 20 40 60 80 100
Importance of Religion
95% Confidence Interval (Design-Effects Based)
Source: © AmericasBarometer by LAPOP

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