Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Recent polling reveals that the public saw the lack of civility in American politics as a serious problem, even before the shootings of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Arizona.The PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in partnership with Religion News Service, found that more than eight-in-ten Americans say the lack of civil or respectful discourse in our political system is a serious problem, a view shared by Americans across the religious and political spectrums. Nearly half of Americans (49%) said that the lack of civility was a very serious problem.
“These survey findings suggest that renewed calls for civility by President Obama and other political and religious leaders will find broad support among Americans across political, religious, and ideological lines,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI.
Nearly six-in-ten (59%) Americans believe that people are more divided over politics than they used to be. More specifically, 41% of Americans believe the 2010 election was generally more negative than past elections. With Democratic candidates facing significant losses at the ballot box in November, self-identified Democrats were significantly more likely than Republicans to say that the election was more negative (51% and 26% respectively).
“Though so many Americans view the lack of civility and respect as a serious problem, few see evidence that America’s political leaders are working to overcome differences,” said Daniel Cox, Director of Research for PRRI.
Only one-in-five (21%) Americans believe national political leaders work well together to get things done despite differences.
To read the full results and questionnaire, click here.
The PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey is conducted monthly by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service. Results from the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted November 5-8, 2010 among a national probability sample of 1,022 adults age 18 and older.
Public Religion Research Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan research and education organization specializing in work at the intersection of religion, values and public life.