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? Thanks to the menace of television, a renowned Charles Dickens biographer says that, on the 200th anniversary of his birth, modern-day children are simply unable to appreciate the Victorian novelist’s work.
Mitt Romney walked away with a comfortable victory in the Nevada caucus (despite some unrest about a special evening caucus convened for orthodox Jews), but Newt Gingrich vowed to fight on. According to entrance polls, Romney did extremely well among the strong number of Mormons who turned out, but he also had a good performance among evangelical Christians and Tea Party members, two groups to whom he has been struggling to appeal.
Romney, however, did less well among low-income voters. This may become a larger issue if Romney makes it to the general election: Barack Obama is already setting the stage with populist speeches like his address at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he presented a distinctly Christian message of economic fairness.
The Buffett Rule, which would raise taxes on America’s wealthiest citizens, was introduced in the Senate, and is facing stiff opposition from Republicans. However, Americans strongly favor the measure – including 52% of Republicans – favor the proposal.
Despite the fact that Americans are less likely to rank abortion as a critical issue compared to the economy, immigration, national security, abortion and birth control are becoming major campaign issues.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s Mormonism stayed in the news. The LA Times analyzed why the spotlight on Romney could be a mixed blessing for the Mormon church, while Frank Bruni lamented Romney’s choice not to speak more openly about his faith, even though religion has clearly shaped him.
Elizabeth Warren seems to be doing well among female voters. Could Obama follow in her footsteps?
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