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.
Welcome to the Morning Buzz, PRRI’s morning dose of religion-related news with a shot of data – because what doesn’t liven up a morning round-up like some public opinion numbers? Before you do anything else this morning, ask yourself: do you want lips that feel as smooth as butter? Paula Deen’s new lip gloss can help with that. Your mouth may also smell and taste like butter, but we’ve all got to make sacrifices for beauty.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress (who ignited a controversy over Mitt Romney’s faith by implying that Romney, a Mormon, is not a Christian) tells Republicans that while it might be necessary to vote for Romney if he ends up as the nominee, “At this point we have the opportunity to select both a competent leader and a committed Christian.” For more on Americans’ perspectives on Mormonism in general and Mitt Romney’s faith in particular, take a look at our new fact sheet.
Americans may believe in separation of church and state (66% agree that we must maintain a strong separation, according to a recent PRRI survey), but sometimes it’s exceedingly difficult for the Supreme Court to figure out where to draw that line. If you’ve got a few minutes to digest it, take a look at Stanley Fish’s analysis of the “ministerial exemption” case recently argued before the Supreme Court, and how it could make the justices feel a little like theologians.
Also in the New York Times, two op-ed contributors argue that evangelical Christianity need not be anti-intellectual. As we wrote a few weeks ago, Rick Perry certainly tried to appeal to evangelical voters by using anti-intellectual rhetoric, but the fact remains that while white evangelical Protestants are still more likely than the general public to reject evolution and climate change, there are evangelicals who follow more scientifically accepted lines of argument. They’re just in the minority.
Is it likely that American Muslims will begin practicing polygamy? The short answer is no. Engy Abdelkader elaborates over at the Huffington Post. For more on Americans’ comfort level with aspects of Muslim culture and religiosity (although we have no numbers on polygamy), check out our recent report.
In an op-ed to the LA Times, historian Andrew J. Bacevich declares that “regardless of the final outcome, the real winner is going to be the concept of American exceptionalism.” This will likely resonate with a large segment of the general public – in May, PRRI found that a slim majority (51%) of Americans agree God has granted America a special role in human history.
A new poll from Gallup showed that a record 50% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. It’s not all good news for those who enjoy intoxicating substances, though: according to new data from the CDC, America pays a significant cost for excessive drinking. The CDC estimated that excessive drinking cost society nearly $224 billion in 2006, most of which fell on federal, state or local governments.
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