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.
This weekend, I appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” to talk about the Catholic vote, a crucial demographic that is becoming increasingly difficult to pin down. Catholics have never voted as a bloc for either of the two parties, but historically, they leaned toward the Democrats. However, demographic shifts among Catholics in the U.S., in large part due to the increasing numbers of Latino Catholics, have started to separate Catholics by race and ethnicity. As I observed:
I would say there are at least two key Catholic votes in the country, and they divide pretty cleanly by ethnicity. White, non-Hispanic Catholics, for example, in the last election supported John McCain over Barack Obama. However, if you look at the Latino Catholic vote, nearly three-quarters of the Latino Catholic vote supported President Barack Obama.
What will this mean for the 2012 election? Listen to the segment to learn more.