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.
The day after the 2012 election, Dr. Robert P. Jones examines the role that values, demographics, and the economy played in American voters’ decision to elect President Barack Obama to a second term in office. Dr. Jones notes that while the economy was front and center, religion and values played an important supporting role, especially in state ballot initiatives on same-sex marriage and several key Senate races:
There is…evidence that publicly expressing extreme views about abortion in cases of rape hurt Senate candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, both of whom lost last night, and underperformed among white evangelical Protestants, a key Republican constituency. In Missouri, Akin trailed Romney’s support among white evangelicals by 20 points (57 percent vs. 77 percent). In Indiana, Mourdock lagged behind Romney among white evangelicals by 11 points (69 percent vs. 80 percent). As I noted in a pre-election column, only about one-quarter (24 percent) of white evangelical Protestants agree that abortion should be illegal in all cases, and politicians who stake out positions in this rarified territory can expect to lose support.
To read the full column, head to Figuring Faith, Dr. Jones’ blog at the Washington Post.