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? Technology is making it easier for blind people to navigate some cities like New York City. On the flip side, however, gadgets like headphones are also increasing the odds that young men who enjoy listening to loud music will get hit by cars – or even trains. Maybe we need safety manuals for headphones like this helpful 1940’s-era guide for bicyclists.
As voters head to the polls in 10 states today, a new survey from Pew shows that the protracted battle for the Republican nomination is helping President Obama. Currently, 49% of Democrats say that as they learn more about the GOP candidates, their impression of Obama is getting better – a 13-point increase since December. Meanwhile, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reports that 4 in 10 of adults say the GOP nominating process has given them a less favorable impression of the Republican Party. In the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza muses about the fractured state of the GOP field, wondering if there is a way for the party to heal itself, in time.
In Ohio, a key Super Tuesday state, Romney and Santorum both made economic appeals. Santorum, however, took a more populist tack, while Romney continued to emphasize his business experience. Ohio will be an important testing ground for Santorum’s appeal to white working-class voters, a group he’s been courting since the New Hampshire primary.
A disturbing new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reveals that one-third of Americans with student debt are over the age of 40. The reason? Parents are shouldering debt to help their children go to college. It’s no wonder that 66% of Americans want the government to do more to help students pay for college and pay off student loan debt.
Florida politicians, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio, are rallying around 18-year-old Daniela Peleaz, a Miami honor student (with a 6.7 GPA – not sure how that’s possible, but I digress) who could be deported back to her native Colombia. Peleaz was brought to the U.S. as a 4-year-old on a tourist visa, and has applied to several prestigious universities. Nearly 6-in-10 Americans agree that illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children should be permitted to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college.
And, in honor of Super Tuesday, this week’s New Yorker cover. It’s a gem.
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