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.
On this week’s episode of “Interfaith Voices,” I joined host Maureen Fiedler and fellow guest Kim Lawton, the managing editor of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, to discuss the faith factor in the 2012 election. I discussed the complex results from PRRI’s recent survey on black Americans’ and Hispanic Americans’ perspectives on contraception and abortion, and answered questions about whether Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith will affect the campaign. When asked to comment on Americans’ views of President Obama’s faith, I explained:
It’s striking that more people today wrongly believe that Obama’s religion is Islam than believed that in 2008…That number has actually gone up during his presidency. But that increase has come largely among people who self-identify as Republicans, who are not likely to vote for Obama anyway…The bigger problem for Obama is another number. Another 4-in-10 say they don’t know what his faith is, which is a bigger problem, because many of these people are Independents or moderates, who are up for grabs this election.
To listen to the full episode, head to Interfaith Voices.