May 15, 2014

Latinos in the U.S. have a strong belief in the spirit world

A majority of American Catholics see Pope Francis as a major change for the Catholic Church. But in one area, Francis may be the most traditional pope in a generation: He has “not only dwelled far more on Satan in sermons and speeches than his recent predecessors have,” according to a recent Washington Post article, “but also sought to rekindle the Devil’s image as a supernatural entity with the forces of evil at his beck and call.”

Francis is the first pope from Latin America, where “mystical views of Satan still hold sway in broad areas of the region,” according to the Post. Last week, Catholics from 33 countries gathered in Vatican City for a conference on exorcism. The Post estimated the number of “official exorcists” to be between 500 and 600, “the vast majority operating in Latin America and Eastern Europe.”

While we do not have data on how many Americans overall believe in the presence of spirits, a recent Pew Research survey found widespread belief in this among Latinos in the United States. More than half (57%) said that people can be possessed by spirits, and 44% said magic, sorcery or witchcraft can influence people’s lives.

In our survey, about one-in-eight Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. (12%) said they have witnessed an exorcism. Even more Hispanic Protestants (37%) – including 59% of Pentecostals – said they have seen “the devil or evil spirits being driven out of a person.”

Varying percentages of U.S. Hispanics also hold other spiritual beliefs, which in some cases may reflect a mix of Christian and indigenous or Afro-Caribbean influences.

Roughly four-in-ten U.S. Hispanics (39%), including a similar share of Hispanic Catholics, said they believe in the “evil eye,” or that certain people can cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen. A smaller share (15%) said they have had witchcraft or black magic practiced on them or someone close to them.

Topics: Religious Beliefs and Practices, Catholics and Catholicism, Hispanic/Latino Demographics

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Carlos3 years ago

    Evil does exist, it just shape shifts, camouflages itself and mutates with every generation. It plays on your desires, your mind and thrives on your greatest fears. The failure to see evil and good is to be ignorant in the Supernatural and powerful realm of God and the Worldliness. This is nothing new. Just look at how perverse our society and world has become. We have replaced prayer and faith for entertainment and fear . “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20

    1. John Jones2 years ago


  2. asdfs3 years ago

    witchcraft? So then there was nothing wrong with the Puritans during the Salem Witch Hunt during the 1600’s in Colonial America.

  3. rene3 years ago

    If we read the bible, we will undertand better. The things of the spirit belong to the spirituals!!

  4. Prof. Orlando Espin3 years ago

    When it comes to Latino/a religion(s), Pew continues to discredit itself. This is neither serious scholarship nor serious methodology, unless Pew claims that the purpose of its “research” is to continue purveying stereotypes and factually unsustainable results. Sad.

    1. Michael Lipka3 years ago

      Thanks for your response. You can read the full report on U.S. Hispanics and religion here:

      The methodology can be seen here:

      Michael Lipka

  5. Robert Erikson3 years ago

    This should be no surprise to anyone who has lived, say, in the Southwestern US. Syncretic beliefs abound among Christians of Hispanic heritage and Native American as well, for that matter.