Latino Catholics and Evangelicals are split on their choice for November and analysts claim their preference is dependent on social conservative concerns over the candidates.
Many Hispanic churchgoers say they are hearing from their clergy about various political issues including immigration, abortion and same sex-marriage, while to a lesser extent, they heard about candidates and elections, the Pew Hispanic Center reported last Thursday.
“Latino clergy, Latino Evangelical pastors, are the voice, they are the trusted voice that many people go to every week when they have a problem with the family, when they have a problem with immigration—they go to their clergy,” said Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NALEC).
An estimated 54 percent of Latinos say they attend religious services at least once or twice a month.
The hot button issues that have dominated the political agenda also transpires to lectures heard during Sunday morning mass. The Pew survey further notes that, “roughly half of Latinos, 54 percent, 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.”
That number further deviates on choice of presidential candidate when it comes to religious affiliation. The majority of Latino Catholics support the president, 73 percent, versus 19 percent for Romney. While among Latino Evangelicals, it’s more narrowly divided, with 50 percent supporting Obama and 39 percent in favor of Romney.
“They may be concerned on all these same issues, but which one of them is a greater concern to that constituency I think that has been the historical difference between these two groups,” said Salguero.
The differences between Latino Evangelicals and Latino Catholics
He explained that Latino Evangelicals overwhelming support pro-life. Aside from Catholics who tend to be more affiliated with the Democratic party, Latino Evangelicals are swing voters. This same voting bloc helped boost George Bush to victory in 2004 and then favored Obama in 2008.
Supporters of the Republican Party believe Mitt Romney is likely to gain support from Latino Catholics who are orthodox and evangelicals. Romney’s campaign is using Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage and abortion as a target to appeal to this voting bloc.
Both campaigns have invested in targeting a large majority of Evangelicals, who are also concentrated in battleground states. Latino evangelicals make up 16 percent out of 24 Latinos who are eligible to vote this year.
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, believes Romney is still able to make potential inroads among Latinos in states like Colorado, Nevada and Florida if he targets the Evangelical communities. He indicated that the Pew report, although, credible did not just survey Latinos who are regular church goers. Those numbers would be higher, he claimed.
“Those who go to church or mass at least once a week I can tell you the majority will vote for Romney,” said Aguilar. “Or at least a considerable percentage, at least 40 percent.”
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, echoed this assertion in an interview with the Charlotte Observer. He said,“My projection is you’re going to see close to 60 percent of Latino evangelicals supporting the Romney ticket.”
The same might hold true with Catholics. The National organization Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) sent out a press release indicating that not all Catholics are in line with the president’s positions.
CALL conducted their own survey which shows that their members value the presidential candidate’s position on moral and ethical issues over their political party affiliation. Robert Aguirre, president of CALL, explained that he doesn’t discredit Pew’s survey, but he believes there is a difference when questioning likely voters.
Aguirre noted that according to their survey immigration is not a priority. The results indicate the opposite with the preservation of religious liberties, abortion and preserving family unity and marriage ranking in the top.
Theologically, Latino Evangelicals are protestant or Pentecostal and they don’t have the same infrastructure as Catholics such as a conference of bishops, Salguero explained. They’re more indigenous in their views. Another way to look at it is that Latino Evangelicals are also social conservatives who prioritize more government intervention that provides more services like health care and education.
“It (abortion) is a major issue in the Hispanic community because of what we call familia,” said Salguero. “Here’s the issue. They’re overwhelming pro-immigration reform because that’s also a family issue. These are all family issues.”
“The question is if they’re not one-issue voters how are Latino Evangelicals going to prioritize social conservative issues versus immigration, poverty and educational equity?”