Pontifical Stats: U.S. Catholics, Spanish-Speakers, and Africans

Jody Brannon and Stephanie Czekalinski

With the first resignation of a pope in centuries, it's a good time to take a look at statistics and figures at Catholicism, the world's largest Christian denomination, according to Wikipedia.


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A December analysis on the global religious landscape, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said that about one in six people in the world are Catholic—about the same number that are not affiliated with a religion.

1.1 billion: Members of the Catholic Church worldwide, or about 16 percent of total population, according to a December 2011 report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

56%: Percentage of the world’s Christians who are Catholic.

67: Number of countries where Catholics make up the majority of the population, according to Pew; the State Department counts 195 independent states in the world, and 34 percent of them are predominantly Catholic.

92.2%: Percentage of Poland's 35.2 million population who are Catholic, making Poland the world's most densely Catholic nation, according to Pew. 

133.6 million: Number of Catholics in Brazil, comprising nearly 68 percent of its citizens and accounting for 12.2 percent of the world's Catholic population, exceeding Mexico, which has 8.8 percent of the world's Catholics. Brazil has more Catholics than the combined totals of three of the most Catholic European nations, Italy, France, and Spain.

74.4 million: Number of U.S. Catholics, comprising 24 percent of total U.S. population and representing 6.8 percent of the world's Catholics.

57%: Percentage of the U.S. Latino electorate that is Catholic, according to Pew

73% vs. 19%: Percentages of Latino Catholics who expected to vote for Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, respectively, in the 2012 election, based on an October Pew poll. (82 percent and 7 percent of Latinos who were religiously unaffiliated, respectively, said they would vote that way).

50% vs. 48%: Percentages of U.S. Catholics who voted for Obama and Romney, respectively, according a Pew exit poll analysis based on religious affiliation. More specifically:

  • 40 percent of white Catholics voted for Obama, compared with 59 percent for Romney
  • 75 percent of Hispanic Catholics voted for Obama, compared with 21 percent for Romney

70%: Percentage of U.S. Latino registered voters who lean Democrat, according to Pew.

71%: Percentage of U.S. Latino registered voters who are Catholic.

96.3 million: Number of Catholics in Mexico, or 85 percent of its population.

20: Number of nations where Spanish is the official language, according to Wikipedia (not including Puerto Rico, which is a dependent U.S. territory), all of which are predominantly Catholic, according to State Department country reports.

10: Number of countries in which 56 percent of the world's Catholics reside: Brazil, Mexico, Phillipines, U.S., Italy, Columbia, France, Poland, Spain, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

+145.8%: Increase in the number of followers in the Catholic population of Africa, between 2004 and 2050, according to projections made in 2005 by the Population Reference Bureau accessing CatholicHierarchy.org data. In 2004, 139 million Africans were Catholic; by 2050, that number is expected to exceed 342 million. "From 2004 to 2050, Catholic populations are projected to increase by 146 percent in Africa, 63 percent in Asia, 42 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 38 percent in North America. Meanwhile, Europe will experience a 6 percent decline in its Catholic population between 2004 and 2050," PRB researcher Robelio Saenz wrote.

265: Number of popes so far. As cardinals gather to select their next leader—their 266th—it's worth noting that Pius VI, the 250th pontiff, was serving in Rome when the U.S. became a nation.