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.
On Tuesday (November 8), Public Religion Research Institute released our 2011 American Values Survey during a panel discussion at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. I gave a presentation on the survey’s key findings, alongside Dr. Jose Casanova, a professor of sociology and senior fellow at the Berkley Center, and Dr. Melissa Deckman, an associate professor of Political Science and Louis L. Goldstein Associate Professor of Public Affairs at Washington College. Dr. Thomas Banchoff, the director of the Berkley Center, moderated the discussion.
Although the panelists discussed the implications of the survey’s findings about Mitt Romney’s religion and Barack Obama’s favorability in the 2012 election, a significant part of the conversation centered around questions of wealth inequality and economic justice. Below, I elaborate on the potential for religious consensus on these issues, which tend polarize Americans along partisan, rather than religious, lines.
For more information and insights on the American Values Survey, please visit our newsroom. If you’re interested, in particular, in issues of economic inequality, see this recent Huffington Post article about our findings about Americans’ support for the minimum wage.
Thanks to Nick Sementelli of Faith in Public Life for generously allowing us to use this footage.