(ZENIT News / Rome, 16.08.2023).- The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) published the results of new research on Catholic media consumption by American Catholics and the Faith. The research, carried out from April 21 to May 5, 2023, was sponsored by FAITH Catholic publisher and involved 1,019 people identified as Catholics. It’s not the first time that CARA carries out a study on Catholic media consumption and faith by American Catholics: it made a study in 2005 and another in 2011. This third study reflects that the majority of Catholics resides in the south of the country (29%), a quarter of them in the Northeast (25%), 24% in the West and 22% in the [Mid-West]. Evidenced also as point of departure is that:
- 36% identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino
- 53% are women and 47% are men
- 39% are 55 years old or older; 26% are 35 to 54 and 25% are 18 to 34
- 55% are in a home that supports a parish financially
- One out of ten is very involved in the parish, in addition to attending Mass
- 24% is somewhat involved, 24% is slightly involved and 42% isn’t involved at all.
In regard to religious practice, the research also addressed the subject of Mass attendance before and after the pandemic: 23% attended Mass weekly before the pandemic, whereas after it only 21% attended.
The research reveals that there was an increase in the proportion of adult Catholics that watched religious or spiritual videos in 2023 as compared with the studies of 2005 and 2011: in 2023, 45% of Catholics watched them in the three months prior to the survey, whereas in 2005 the percentage was 28% and in 2011, 24%.
This increase was related to new digital habits formed during the pandemic, a time during which many Catholics were unable to frequent the life of their parishes. In fact, 61% of adult Catholics said that during the pandemic they found new ways online of “practicing the faith.” After the pandemic, 58% said they kept those digital habits. Among the habits practiced during the pandemic and post pandemic are the following:
“Attendance of Church services online”
“Bible study groups on Zoom”
“The Church’s Website”
“In reality, I found many things to watch on YouTube”
“I communicated in online forums”
“I read articles”
”I joined a group and Bible study application”
“Listened to preachers online”
“Church online and meetings on Zoom with my priest”
“Reading of the Bible”
“Looking for prayer”
The study reflects that younger Catholics were more highly prone than older Catholics to find forms of practices of faith online during the pandemic and practicing them after it.
Media consumption, as well as that of the diocesan newspaper, increased after the pandemic. Whereas before the pandemic only one out of four read it, in 2023, 49% read it and 21% do so also online (17% in printed form and 10% in both printed as well as digital form).
One of the ways in which Catholics stay connected with their local community is by reading their diocesan newspaper. The proportion of adult Catholics that now read their diocesan publication increased after the pandemic. Before the pandemic, approximately three out of four didn’t read it. Now, in 2023, 49% read it and some read it online (21%), others in printed form (17%) and some online and in printed form (10%).
Moreover, 42% of adult Catholics say they read the diocesan newspaper at least once a month. Only 7% read it less frequently. 49% of adult Catholics agree that the printed version of the diocesan newspaper is an essential part of the way the diocese communicates with them. Only 18% doesn’t agree with this affirmation. 43% agree that a printed version of the diocesan newspaper is important for them, whereas for 26% it isn’t. 42% agree that they would like a printed and an online version of their diocesan newspaper or magazine so that anyone can access them. 24% do not think the same. 24% would be annoyed if their diocese stopped producing the printed version of its publications. 24% do not consider it important.
The research also reflects that the greater the participation in weekly Mass is, the more importance is given to the diocesan newspaper itself or the magazine: 62% of those that go to Mass weekly (and also monthly) say that the magazine or newspaper are an essential part of the way the diocese communicates, whereas the percentage declines (37%) in those that go to Mass sometimes or less frequently. 54% of those that go to Mass regularly said they wouldn’t agree that their diocese stop producing the printed version of its newspaper or magazine. Only 31% of those that go sometimes to Mass think the same. This fact reflects that it’s more probable that Catholics are more in favour of the continuity of the diocesan publications rather than suspending them.
An item that says a lot is the fact that parish bulletins are read more than diocesan newspapers: 61% of adult Catholics read their parish’s bulletins (at least in the three months prior to the survey). This fact is a constant in the three studies. In 2023 a quarter of those polled read the parish bulletin online and as many others did so in the printed version. 11% more did so in both formats.
The survey’s data seems to indicate that the pandemic enabled Catholics to look for Websites related to the Church whereas in the 2005 study there were few who did so, then in 2011 (four years after the advent of the iPhone), that increased. In 2023, 44% of adult Catholics visited their parish’s Website in the three months prior to the survey.
In 2023, the parish bulletins continued being those that enjoy more trust among Catholics, followed by the diocesan newspapers and Catholic TV.
Finally, the research highlights the fact that Websites, social networks and Catholic radio are used by the Catholic population, although it’s true that 23% of adult American Catholics do not pay attention to Catholic media. However, this isn’t bad news: the two previous studies had a greater percentage in the past, which is translated as Catholics paying attention to Confessional media.