More Catholics are Accessing Religious Content Online
New research from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) reveals an evolution in the ways in which Catholics use media to support and engage in their faith. A survey of more than 1,000 self-identified Catholics shows dramatic changes in digital media usage compared to CARA’s prior surveys on this subject in 2011 and 2005, including significant increases in digital media usage since the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, traditional media remain important to Catholics. Diocesan magazines and newspapers continue to be “essential sources for spiritual content and information about the local Church."
As expected, younger Catholics are more likely to engage with content in the digital space; however, responses were not appreciably different for those 18 to 34 than for those 35-54. Notable differences in media behaviors were more likely in respondents over the age of 55. Mass attendance also is a predictor of media engagement, with those who attend Mass weekly or at least a few times per month more likely to use Catholic content, both online and in print.
CARA’s research concluded that most respondents aren’t outwardly Catholic in their social media. While nearly everyone in the survey reported using some sort of social media, fewer than half identify themselves as Catholic on their social profiles, and only about a third share Catholic content on social media.
Perhaps the most “low-tech” communication tool remains the most effective way to reach Catholics—the parish bulletin. Most Catholics read their bulletin in print or online, whether or not they attend Mass weekly or even monthly.
What’s the takeaway for Catholic communicators? “If communication with the people of God is a multiple choice question, the answer is ‘all of the above,’” says FAITH President and CEO Elizabeth Martin Solsburg. “There’s no one right way to reach people. Dioceses and Catholic organizations need to employ an integrated strategy. They need to keep publishing in print but also online, using content sites and social media to help Catholics learn how to be evangelizing disciples.”
RESEARCH CONDUCTED BY THE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH IN THE APOSTOLATE
CATHOLIC MEDIA USE, 2023
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) surveyed 1,019 self-identified Catholics from April 21 to May 5. The survey was taken online and was available in English and Spanish (97% responded in English and 3% in Spanish). This survey was commissioned by a contribution from FAITH Catholic. However, FAITH Catholic was not involved in the research process or the writing of this report. CARA had complete research independence for the study and released all survey results directly.