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? Politics can, at times, veer perilously close to parody. But you know that it’s taken a turn for the worse when someone decides that their cat is the best candidate for a Senate seat. The question is: does Hank the cat have his own SuperPAC?
Today, Republican primary fever comes to Michigan and Arizona. The Michigan race is particularly high-stakes because it’s Romney’s home state (the place where all the trees are the right height), but Nate Silver says that Romney’s lead is looking quite tenuous. According to Rick Klein, Romney will continue to struggle after today, regardless of the outcome. If Santorum succeeds in Michigan, it might just be because of appeals like this one. Meanwhile, the fierce struggle between Santorum and Romney seems to have given Obama a boost in Michigan.
Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, is already looking ahead to the competition in Georgia next week. Speaking at an evangelical church, he told the assembled congregation that Americans need to “stand up for ourselves.” Santorum spoke at the same church last Sunday, however, and drew a much larger crowd. As Dr. Robert P. Jones wrote a few months ago, Santorum is in many ways the evangelical’s Catholic candidate.
The Barna Group has a new report about how Protestant pastors plan to improve their churches. Among other concerns, 38% of pastors said that they were going to “assess their church’s reputation in their community.” Given that nearly seven-in-ten (69%) Millennials agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues, this could make a big difference for pastors trying to coax young adults back into the pews.
Remember that piece I sent out a few days ago, about Romney’s sudden drop among female voters? Curiouser and curiouser: it seems that Santorum is increasingly popular among GOP women. For more on how Santorum could be siphoning off Romney’s support among women, check out our blog.
Amid all of the debate about no-cost birth control, Washington State could become the first state to require health insurance plans to cover abortion costs. The bill does, however, allow for conscience-based exemptions.
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