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.
In a column for Huffington Post Politics, I lay out a significant challenge for the Republican Party: the gap between Millennials (age 18-29) and white evangelical Protestants on controversial issues like same-sex marriage. In the piece, I argue that the GOP will have a difficult time striking an effective balance between the views of Millennials and evangelical Protestants on these issues, although they will have to appeal to both in order to find electoral success:
One of the most significant challenges facing the GOP can be reduced to just two nearly identical numbers: 72% and 71%. According to a recent PRRI/Brookings survey, 72% of Millennials (Americans age 18 to 29) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while a nearly identical number (71%) of white evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage. Millennials are among the strongest supporters of same-sex marriage, while white evangelicals remain the issue’s most ardent opponents. In 2016, the GOP nominee will face a serious coalition management challenge, since the party needs the votes of both groups.
Read the full column online here.