Feb. 28, 2013 -- intro: With Pope Benedict XVI's departure, Catholics will soon have a new leader, who will no doubt hold sway over a good chunk of American voters.
Catholics have made up a significant portion of the United States since the end of the 19th century, when Irish Catholics set sail for America to escape famine, according to the National Humanities Center. Around that same time, more than a quarter of Italy's population left its native land to find work in America, the "vast majority" of whom were Catholic, according to the American Immigration Law Foundation. Today, Catholics make up about a quarter of the U.S. population.
Current political leadership includes several prominent Catholics: Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.
But it's impossible to predict how Catholics will vote, and where they'll vary on what their church leader decrees. Read on to see how America's Catholics break down, by the numbers.
quicklist:title: 78.2 million text: Self-identified Catholics in America, about a quarter of the country's population (Georgetown University, 2012).
quicklist:title: About 2 milliontext: Number of children in Catholic schools in the U.S. (Georgetown University, 2012).
quicklist:title: 83 percenttext: American Catholics satisfied with nuns and sisters (Pew, November 2012).
quicklist:title: 82 percenttext: American Catholics who said birth control was "morally acceptable" (Gallup, May 2012).
quicklist:title: 74 percenttext: American Catholics satisfied with Pope Benedict XVI (Pew, November 2012).
quicklist:title: 63 percenttext: White American Catholics who support repealing the ban against gays joining the Boy Scouts of America (Quinnipiac University, February 2013).
quicklist:title: 62 percenttext: American Catholics who favor stricter gun laws (Public Religion Research Institute, August 2012).
quicklist:title: 50 percenttext: Catholics who voted for President Obama in 2012, compared with 48 percent for Mitt Romney (Pew, November 2012).
quicklist:title: 49 percenttext: White American Catholics who support same-sex marriage, compared with 43 percent who oppose it (Quinnipiac University, December 2012).
quicklist:title: One-thirdtext: Catholics who wished their pastor or bishops would blog (Georgetown University, November 2012).
quicklist:title: 32 percenttext: Catholics who own guns in America (Public Religion Research Institute, August 2012).
quicklist:title: Sixtext: Number of Supreme Court Justices who are Catholic. The other three Justices are Jewish.
quicklist:title: Onetext: Number of American presidents who have identified as Catholic - John F. Kennedy. Also number of Catholic American vice presidents - Joe Biden.