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?
Is the American Dream dead? Maybe in the South, according to new data from researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research. As Matthew O’Brien reports in The Atlantic, the study finds that those who strive to move up economically have about the same chances as people did in the 1950s. However, your economic prospects depend not only on indicators like race, inequality, and family structure, but also on region and the degree of inequality in your local community. O’Brien notes that the bigger the gap between the rich and the poor, the less mobility there is. PRRI’s Economic Values Survey found that nearly half (47 percent) of Americans say they are worse off financially than their parents’ generation. Sixteen percent say about the same, and 36 percent say they are better off financially than their parents’ generation.
For more numbers about the polarization between rich and poor, and Americans’ attitudes about the American Dream, check out today’s PRRI blog. Also, join PRRI at #PRRI as we live tweet during President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight which is said to focus on concrete, practical proposals to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and increase opportunity for all.
At Religion News Service, Omar Sacirbey believes a recent Best Buy commercial featuring a Muslim employee is evidence that Muslim Americans are experiencing greater acceptance. Ten years after 9/11, PRRI’s Pluralism, Immigration and Civic Integration Survey reported a majority (54 percent) of the general public agrees that American Muslims are an important part of the religious community in the U.S., compared to 43 percent who disagree.
Last Friday, the Supreme Court extended its ruling that allows religious-affiliated non-profit groups to remain exempt from Obamacare requirements to cover birth control and other reproductive health services that the groups oppose on religious grounds. See CNN’s coverage of the decision here. A majority (52 percent) of Americans, including 59 percent of Catholics, agree that religiously affiliated social service agencies should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost, compared to 43 percent who disagree.
Slate has posted a map highlighting by state the number of public, private and charter schools that receive taxpayer money to fund the teaching of creationism. A majority (57%) of Americans believe that humans and other living things have evolved over time, compared to 38% who say that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since creation.
In case you missed the Grammy’s on Sunday night, Queen Latifah, acting as officiant, pronounced 34 same-sex couples legally married during the awards ceremony, which took place in Los Angeles, California, where same-sex marriage is legal. Madonna performed a ballad version of her 1986 hit single, Open Your Heart. PRRI’s research shows that 52 percent of Americans, including 57 percent of Californians, favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally; 42 percent oppose.