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?
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Punctuation enthusiasts, prepare to be angered: the bookstore chain Waterstone’s has announced that it will drop the apostrophe from its name, saying that it is no longer “practical” to be grammatically correct in the age of the internet and email. What’s next on the chopping block – the Oxford comma?
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is on Monday, and here are some numbers that show just how much can change between a few generations. Millennials (age 18 to 29) are twice as likely as seniors (age 65 and up) to have a daily conversation with someone who is African American.
A new survey of Mormons from the Pew Forum for Religion & Public Life examined how one of the nation’s fastest growing religious communities views America and their place within it. The results are mixed: many feel alienated, but overall, Mormons are happy with their lives and communities. For more on Mormons’ views – including an analysis of the parallels between Mormons and white evangelicals on a wide range of social and political issues – check out our blog.
In this week’s New York Times magazine, Matt Bai explores the world of the South Carolina Tea Party. He quotes a lobbyist who says that while some Tea Party activists may wear their loathing for Mitt Romney on their sleeve, “I think there are a lot of people who are for Romney and who are just afraid to admit it right now.” That’s in line with our numbers – Romney has high national favorability among Tea Party members, despite the anecdotal evidence to the contrary.
Meanwhile, blows are flying fast and furious among the candidates in South Carolina – even Sarah Palin joined the fray, calling for Romney to release his personal tax returns. Gingrich and Romney attacked each other on abortion, while evangelical leaders are still planning to meet in Texas this weekend to find a “consensus” candidate. Good luck to them, I guess?
In Arizona, Tucson public schools suspended their Mexican-American studies program in compliance with a state law banning ethnic studies programs. For more on Americans’ attitudes toward increasing diversity, see PRRI’s recent report.
Poor beleaguered Ben Stein. The actor (Bueller?) was fired from a series of commercials by an environmentally conscious company that discovered he did not believe in climate change, and is now suing the company for infringing on his religious freedom.
Also, apparently Mitt Romney has Mexican heritage. This has been a strange week. Happy Friday! We’ll see you next Tuesday, after the long weekend.
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