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.
Welcome to the Morning Buzz, PRRI’s morning dose of religion-related news with a shot of data – because what doesn’t liven up a morning round-up like some public opinion numbers?
Guess who’s heading to Pyongyang with plans to “bridge the gap” between America and North Korea: bet you didn’t pick Dennis Rodman, did you? The Worm is inching across the Pacific to hang with his buddy Kim Jong-un after the two hit it off during a February visit in which Rodman became the first American to meet North Korea’s young dictator.
Be sure to check out our new Ohio Values Survey, released just this morning, which finds that the vast majority of Ohio voters incorrectly believe that it is currently illegal under Ohio and federal law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in a range of areas. They’re also split on the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage (47 percent favor vs. 47 percent who oppose).
American fast food workers went on strike last week to demand higher pay, and 73 percent of Americans favor increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 per hour. But is a raise due? Jordan Weissmann’s latest for The Atlantic explores data showing that America’s lowest earners are doing a bit better compared to their counterparts in other developed nations than it might at first seem.
Nearly one-in-ten abortion clinics in the United States have stopped providing services since 2011, largely due to tighter state rules and regulations governing the procedure. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say that at least some health care professionals in their communities should provide legal abortions, while 38 percent say they should not.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court is considering whether compulsory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance violates atheists’ equal rights under state laws, as plaintiffs argue that the phrase “under God” discriminates against the religiously unaffiliated. Forty-five percent of Americans say the principle of the separation of church and state is being threatened in the United States today, while 48 percent say it is not.
And finally, new research suggests babies around three months old can learn from lemur calls just like they can from human voices. For those of you worried about what your child may be picking up from primates, fear not: the effect wears off by the time babies hit six months.