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.
Since Vice President Joe Biden was tasked with drafting new and comprehensive proposals on gun control, he has consulted with a number of organizations with varying perspectives on the issue. Today he is meeting with victims’ groups and gun safety advocates. Tomorrow, he will sit down with a representative from the National Rifle Association, an influential lobbying group.
Americans’ opinions of the NRA are divided by political and religious affiliation. The PRRI Race, Class, and Culture survey conducted in August of 2012 found that a majority (56%) of Americans hold a favorable view of the NRA, while slightly less than one third (32%) hold an unfavorable view. A new PPP national poll, however, found that the NRA’s favorability has decreased in the last few weeks: 42% of Americans rank the NRA favorably and 45% unfavorably. PRRI’s findings among religious groups showed that white evangelicals sported the highest support for the NRA at 76% while black Protestants claimed the lowest levels of support at 39%. Religiously unaffiliated Americans were more closely divided with 40% holding favorable views and 48% holding unfavorable views of the NRA. The partisan differences were especially stark. For a breakdown of views of the NRA by political party affiliation you can turn to this week’s Graphic of the Week.