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Hispanic Catholics, Protestants divided in view of Trump, issues he favors

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- 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 reelection 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% who approved of the job Trump is doing as president, and 45% who approved of his handling of the economy. Trump got lower approval marks from Hispanics on the coronavirus pandemic, 28%, and dealing with racial justice protests, 31%.

"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% and 58%, respectively, Hispanic Catholics gave Trump much lower numbers on those two issues -- 27% and 42%.

"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 percent of Hispanic Catholics identify as Democrats, more than independents (20%), and Republicans (19%) combined. Hispanic Protestants give Democrats third place on party identity at 28%, although the numbers are closely bunched: 32% identify as Republicans, 31% as independents.

"Hispanic Protestants are much more likely to say they are ideologically conservative (39%) than Hispanic Catholics (19%) or those who are religiously unaffiliated (12%)," Jackson said. "There are not significant divisions between these religious groups by age or education."

Overall, 35% 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%), compared to 34% of Hispanic Catholics and 15% of Hispanics who are religiously unaffiliated, agree," Jackson said.

Similarly, 45% of Hispanic Protestants support a law preventing refugees from entering the country, compared to 31% of Hispanic Catholics and 13% of religiously unaffiliated Hispanics.

Twenty-five percent of U.S. 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% of Hispanic Protestants, and 17% 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%) are less likely than all Hispanic Americans (60%), Hispanic Catholics (68%), and religiously unaffiliated Hispanics (73%) 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%) than Hispanic Catholics (33%) and those who are religiously unaffiliated (22%)," 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% by PRRI -- are more likely to say that Christians face a lot of discrimination. By comparison, 29% of Hispanic Catholics, 26% of religiously unaffiliated Hispanics, and 37% of all U.S. 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%, Jackson said.

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