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.
If you haven’t already seen it, check out the 2012 Jewish Values Survey, a new national of survey 1,004 Jewish Americans – the first of its kind conducted by a non-Jewish research organization. The survey examines the religious and cultural values that are shaping Jews’ attitudes toward political participation and social action. You can take a look at the full report for a detailed picture, but a few highlights:
- Eight months before the election, Jewish voters are strongly supportive of Barack Obama over a generic Republican candidate.
- More than 4-in-10 (42%) American Jews say that being Jewish is either very important for the most important thing in their lives. Approximately 3-in-10 (29%) say being Jewish is somewhat important, and approximately 3-in-10 (29%) say being Jewish is either not too important or not at all important in their lives.
- American Jews say that good diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace (63% vs. 24% respectively).
- When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, nearly half of American Jews (46%) cite a commitment to social equality – twice as many as cite support for Israel (20%) or religious observance (17%).
- Nearly two-thirds (64%) of American Jews agree that the government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.
To read the entire report, head to our research page.