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.
Laurie Goodstein has penned a great new article for The New York Times on PRRI’s Hispanic Values Survey. Goodstein, who interviewed PRRI CEO Dr. Robert P. Jones in Austin upon the report’s release at the Religion Newswriters Association annual conference, highlights the challenges facing Republicans as they aim to win over Hispanic voters in coming elections.
The outlook for Republicans has grown increasingly negative since 2004, when President George W. Bush won re-election with 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. The survey, released Friday by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit research group in Washington, found that 56 percent of registered Hispanic voters identified with the Democrats, while 19 percent said they identified with Republicans, and 19 percent as independents.
The religious identities of Hispanics are also changing, with 69 percent saying they grew up Catholic, but only 53 percent saying they identify as Catholic now. Those saying they are evangelical Protestants have increased by six percentage points to 13 percent. But Hispanics, like Americans as a whole, are increasingly claiming no religion at all: 7 percent of Hispanics say they were raised in a faith but now have no religious affiliation, bringing the total percentage of Hispanics with no religion to 12 percent.
Robert P. Jones, the chief executive of the institute, said in an interview: “If these trends continue, what we’ll see is a growing polarization among Hispanics, anchored on one end by evangelicals, who tend to be conservative, and on the other end by religiously unaffiliated Hispanics. The unaffiliated voted for Obama by 80 percent, so you see really different political profiles.”
Click here to check out the rest of Goodstein’s piece at The New York Times.