A Pew Research survey released last week shows that nearly half of Americans share a connection to Catholicism.
Instead of the usual tally of Americans who generically identify themselves as Catholic, the survey found that 45% of U.S. adults have a meaningful connection to Catholicism. The connections are broken down into four groups that include self-identified Catholics, cultural Catholics, ex-Catholics, or other Catholic connection.
Of the 5,122 U.S. adults surveyed – including 1,106 who identify as Catholic – 20% responded that they were Catholic when asked their present religion, if any.
The respondents who self-identify as non-Catholic were then asked if they currently consider themselves to be Catholic or partially Catholic in any way. Pew found that 9% of non-Catholics surveyed are “cultural Catholics,” which include people who consider themselves at least partially Catholic because of lineage or tradition.
Additionally, the poll shows 9% of non-Catholics who do not consider themselves cultural Catholics were raised Catholic but now have no affiliation in any way.
Finally, of the remaining respondents with no previous connection to Catholicism, 8% said they had other connections such as a Catholic parent, spouse, or partner, or by occasionally attending Catholic Mass.
With more than 1.25 billion Catholics worldwide, nearly half of Americans having a connection to one of the oldest religious institutions should not come as a complete surprise. However, the survey also found that the percentage of American Catholics overall is in decline. In 2007, Pew found that 23.9% of the U.S. population identified as Catholic. By 2014, it was down to 20.8% according to previous Pew findings.
The Pew Survey of U.S. Catholics was released in anticipation of Pope Francis’ first visit to the U.S. later this month. The pontiff will be will be visiting Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia as part of a five-day tour of the U.S. His visit will reportedly focus on social and economic justice, the environment, immigration, and traditional family values.