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? Herman Cain, who has effectively dropped out of the GOP race, came in 5th place in South Carolina with the help of comedian Stephen Colbert. It saddens me that with Cain’s withdrawal from the race, there are no mustachioed candidates left, so I consoled myself with this slideshow of the 15 best literary mustaches. I would certainly support any candidate who waxed his mustache with as much enthusiasm as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Anyone who was yearning for a long, protracted power struggle before the Republican nomination is decided were surely pleased by the results of Saturday’s primary in South Carolina. Mitt Romney’s double-digit loss to Newt Gingrich guarantees that campaigning in the lead-up to the Florida primary will be intense indeed. Romney’s religion seemed to be a issue for many South Carolina voters: he got clobbered by Gingrich among white evangelicals (Romney got 22%, compared to Gingrich’s 44%).
In Florida, candidates are likely to face questions about immigration; it’s the first racially diverse primary state, and although Mitt Romney has the support of some popular Latino Republicans, his position on policies like the DREAM Act may threaten his chances among Latino voters. For more, see our blog.
On Friday, the Obama administration announced that it would not allow a religious exemption to the new rule that employers must provide no-cost birth control through their insurance, although it did give religious hospitals and other organizations (like universities and social agencies) a year to comply with the rule. Although this isn’t likely to be popular among Catholic leaders, who lobbied hard for an exemption for religiously affiliated organizations, it’s a policy that is likely to meet with approval of lay Catholics and Americans in general (85% of Catholics and 82% of Americans support expanding birth control access to women who can’t afford it).
Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and today, pro-life Americans will gather in Washington, D.C. to protest the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Americans are divided about the morality of abortion, although a majority say abortion should be legal in all (19%) or most (37%) cases. For more on Americans’ complicated opinions about abortion, check out this in-depth report.
In the aftermath of his loss to Gingrich, Romney announced that the brouhaha over his reluctance to release his tax returns was a “distraction,” and said that he’ll release his 2010 tax returns tomorrow. There’s been significant debate over whether it’s a problem that Romney, whose substantial income comes primarily from investments, pays a lower tax rate than most Americans. For more about socioeconomic tensions and what that could mean for the 2012 election, hop over to our blog.
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