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? It’s almost Halloween, and in the midst of obsessing about my costume, I happened upon this nifty little tool from the BBC. Nothing to distract you from Halloween mania like a good reality check about your own insignificance.
There has been a LOT of news about Mormonism in the past month – and yet most Americans still can’t identify Mitt Romney’s religion. The latest PRRI Religion & Politics Tracking Survey finds that 42% of the general public know that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, a figure that is unchanged since July when we last posed this question to the public. It may seem inconceivable that anyone could have escaped the enormous amount of media attention lavished on the subject, but these numbers aren’t actually that surprising.
Speaking of Mormonism, the onslaught of news coverage continues. The New York Times explores the complexity of being a young, hip Mormon, while Mark Silk teases out what it would mean for Mormonism to be an “Abrahamic” rather than “Judeo-Christian” religion.
At USA Today, David Saperstein and Oliver Thomas take a step back and offer some advice on how religion and politics can be productively, rather than explosively, discussed. Considering that the subject of religion is not likely to disappear from the political arena, we all might do well to take their advice.
Faith groups are appealing to the Super Committee as part of a “Faithful Budget Campaign.” Nearly 6-in-10 Americans (58%) believe that the federal budget is a moral document that reflects national priorities.
Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan, who is Catholic, was asked about the Vatican’s new document on ethics and financial reform. He rejected the idea that Catholic leadership was calling for “some kind of international system of dividing the pie.” According to a PRRI survey conducted last spring, 61% of Catholics say it is important for religious leaders to speak out about the gap between the rich and the poor.
Have a great weekend! We’ll see you on Monday.
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