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.
Can terms like “pro-choice” and “pro-life” adequately capture the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion? In this week’s post for “Figuring Faith,” Dr. Robert P. Jones tackles this tough question, responding to recent data from Gallup which appears to show a sharp drop in the number of Americans who identify as “pro-choice.” Dr. Jones uses findings from a PRRI survey to show why this conclusion is more reflective of the shifting winds of rhetoric than Americans’ perspectives on abortion’s legality:
Last summer, a major national survey by Public Religion Research Institute uncovered a surprising but critical feature of the abortion debate: 7-in-10 Americans reported that the term “pro-choice” described them somewhat well (32 percent) or very well (38 percent), and nearly two-thirds simultaneously said that the term “pro-life” described them somewhat well (31 percent) or very well (35 percent). In other words: when they were not forced to choose between one label and the other, over 4-in-10 (43 percent) Americans said that they were both “pro-choice” and “pro-life.”
To read the full column, head over to “Figuring Faith,” Dr. Jones’ blog at the Washington Post.