Could Mass Immigration Save Social Conservatism?

by Michael Potemra


Social conservatives have been in the doldrums of late, especially because of the rising popularity of same-sex marriage, to a level of approval unimaginable as recently as a decade ago. But the cover story in the new issue of Time magazine suggests that history may be heading for yet another turn: The rapid ascent of Latino Evangelicalism could provide the energy for a serious revival of social-conservative ideas.

According to statistics accompanying that cover story, each generation of Latinos is significantly more Protestant than the last. And that has a direct bearing on their views on social-conservative issues: While 52 percent of Latino Catholics “are opposed to abortion in all or most cases,” 70 percent of Latino Protestants hold this view. While Latino Catholics favor same-sex marriage by a lopsided 54 to 31 percent margin, Latino Protestants oppose it by an even greater margin, 66 to 25 percent.

The Latino population is expected to grow from 17 percent of Americans today to 29 percent by midcentury. The growing Evangelical element within the Latino community is energetic and committed: While 58 percent of Americans overall, and 66 percent of Latino Catholics, “say religion is very important in their lives,” this number is a dizzying 92 percent among Latino Protestants. (Seventy percent of Latino Protestants say they attend church at least once a week – as opposed to 47 percent of Latino Catholics, and 36 percent of the general population.)

It has often been observed that trend is not destiny, and maybe new developments – e.g., the recent election of a Latino pope — will have some effect on these numbers. But if current trends hold up, our country in 2050 will be a very interesting place: completely bankrupt, of course; but also significantly browner, and significantly more socially conservative. 

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