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?
U–S–A! U–S–A! With a final score of 5-2 over the Czech Republic, the U.S. Men’s Hockey team won the quarterfinal round at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The team now advances to the semifinals, which will be played against our neighbors to the north, Canada, on Friday, February 21.
Reuters details the release of a Congressional Budget Office report that shows raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will result in the loss of 500,000 jobs by the end of 2016. However, raising the minimum wage– in three annual steps – would also bring 900,000 Americans above the poverty threshold. Seventy-one percent of Americans say they favor increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 per hour while only 24 percent oppose raising the minimum wage.
In what many are saying is the most critical week of the first year of his papacy, Pope Francis has convened nearly two hundred cardinals in Vatican City to discuss reforming the Catholic Church. Tomorrow starts a round of closed-door meetings to discuss critical issues facing the church including contraception, cohabitation, same-sex marriage and whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion. More than 8-in-10 (81%) Catholics believe using artificial birth control methods is morally acceptable, while 14% say it is morally wrong.
For the first time since the war in Afghanistan began, more Americans oppose the war than support it, according to a newly released Gallup poll. The gap is slight – 49 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan was not for America to fight while 48 percent believe chasing terrorist cells in the country was the right thing to do – and unlike the Vietnam War and the War on Iraq, it took a much longer time for Americans to turn against the war in Afghanistan.
The Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative political activists, will have a new addition this year: GOProud, the Republican gay-rights group. The group had previously been banned after socially conservative groups, such as the Family Research Council, objected to their involvement in the conference. Forty percent of self-identified conservatives feel negatively toward gay and lesbian people, 14% have a neutral opinion and 26% feel positively toward them.