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? How socks got cheaper and daycare got more expensive, in two helpful charts.
Friday brought bad news for the Obama administration: a key Catholic organization, the Catholic Health Association, announced that it was no longer comfortable with the White House’s compromise on the contraceptive mandate. Before this news, the CHA was one of the administration’s most influential allies in the debate over religious liberty and no-cost birth control. Like most Americans, Catholics generally believe that religiously affiliated employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception at no cost. However, white Catholics tend to be less supportive of the requirement.
Meanwhile, a group of Roman Catholic nuns kicked off a bus tour to protest Republican budget proposals that they say unfairly target the poor and vulnerable.
Working class white voters are, Thomas Edsall argues, an excellent barometer for gauging the relative strength of the two parties in Congress and in the White House. Though their numbers are diminishing, Edsall notes that Democrats are also losing larger and larger numbers of this key demographic.
A new poll from Latino Decisions shows that Obama’s new immigration policy could have a big payoff: nearly half of Latino voters said the move would make them more enthusiastic about Obama. By contrast, nearly 6-in-10 (59%) Latino voters said that Mitt Romney’s policy of “self-deportation” made them less enthusiastic about Romney.
Meanwhile, as auditions for the prestigious role of Republican vice presidential candidate trundle along, some candidates appear to be more excited about the job than others. For example: Sen. Rob Portman heroically stepped up and cleaned the blueberry stains off Romney’s grandchildren after the youngsters were left unattended near the dessert table. Gov. Chris Christie, on the other hand, seems to have problems with basic punctuality. Meanwhile, Obama’s immigration policy could make Sen. Marco Rubio an even more appealing veep pick.
The number of prescriptions written for birth control for teenagers grew by 93% from 2002-2010, according to the FDA, although researchers were quick to note that this rise is likely attributed to a change in the duration of use or increase in use of birth control for reasons like acne treatment. Slightly more than half of Americans say that methods of birth control should be generally available to teenagers age 16 and older without parental approval.
In an article for the National Review, Matthew Schmitz calls for conservatives to oppose anti-Shari’a laws, and encourages them to help debunk the threat of “creeping Shari’a.” Only 14% of Americans agree that American Muslims want to establish Shari’a or Islamic law as law of the land.