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?
Happy Hanukkah! If you’ve managed to miss the Maccabeats’ cover of Hasidic rapper Matisyahu’s “Miracle,” check it out here. Matisyahu recently made news by shaving off his iconic beard (and at the Daily Beast, he also calls out J.K. Rowling for neglecting to include Hanukkah in the Harry Potter books).
Gingrich may be plummeting in the polls, but he did win a Tea Party straw poll. Then again, PRRI’s December Religion & Politics Tracking Survey showed Gingrich (61%), Bachmann (62%) and Romney (56%) tied in favorability among Tea Party voters, which means that it could be anyone’s game.
Shouldn’t Ron Paul be the Tea Party’s guy? Apparently not – he won a measly 3% of the recent Tea Party straw poll. The Atlantic Wire uses PRRI data to examine why Paul might not be the Tea Party’s first pick.
Iowa’s evangelicals are still deciding whom to support in the early January caucus. PRRI’s latest survey shows Romney (52%) and Gingrich (53%) with similar levels of favorability among white evangelical Protestant voters, although more evangelicals strongly favored Gingrich (16%) than Romney (8%). Republican voters, however, are more likely to laud Romney for his family values.
At “On Faith,” Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite paints a Dickensian portrait of 21st-century life, declaring that the “ghost” of the 19th century, rife with income inequality, should still “haunt” Americans. Although most Americans probably wouldn’t agree with such a grim analogy (cholera, for example, is not quite as much of a threat as it was 200 years ago), two-thirds (67%) of Americans say the government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.
Seeking to combat atheism’s dark image (only 45% of Americans have a favorable view of atheists) two columnists write in defense of non-believers. Louise M. Antony argues that atheism does not entail nihilism, and that atheism can have its own morality, and Jacques Berlinerblau calls for atheists to revamp themselves politically.
Rick Perry has found his topic, and he’s sticking to it. The Republican presidential hopeful spoke to an audience at an Iowa church, calling for faith to enter into the public sphere. Nearly two-thirds (66%) of Americans agree that we should maintain a strict separation of church and state.
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