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.
As PRRI observed in a research note earlier this year, in 2011, majorities of most religious groups favored allowing gay and lesbian couple to marry legally, illustrating that the old narrative of battle lines between secular supporters and religious opponents no longer serves as an accurate characterization of the landscape of the same-sex marriage debate.
Support is strongest among Jews (76%), the unaffiliated (72%), and non-Christian religiously affiliated Americans (63%), a group that includes Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. A majority of white Catholics (56%), Hispanic Catholics (53%), and white mainline Protestants (52%) also favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
On the other side of the debate are black Protestants, Mormons and white evangelical Protestants. Among black Protestants, only one-third support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to 63% who are opposed. Mormons and white evangelical Protestants have nearly identical profiles on this issue. Only about 1-in 5 of Mormons (23%) and white evangelical Protestants (20%) support same-sex marriage, compared to three-quarters (75% each) who are opposed.
Stay tuned to our blog as we unveil more analysis of the “Fortnight of Facts About Religious Liberty.”