The American religious landscape has vastly changed over the last decades, and the two largest religious groups – Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated – have experienced the greatest shifts in membership. The attitudes and political preferences of these groups have important implications for party coalitions and political campaigns, but they are by no means homogeneous groups. Each is composed of distinctive subgroups with starkly different views on the economy, social issues, and the role of government.
On October 23, the religion, policy and politics project at Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) hosted a forum to release PRRI’s fourth American Values Survey (AVS), a large national, multi-issue survey on religion, values and public policy. The accompanying research report, authored by PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones and PRRI research director Daniel Cox, along with Brookings Senior Fellows E.J. Dionne and William Galston, explores attitudes toward issues such as the deficit, taxes, health care, abortion, same-sex marriage, and the size and role of government. Melissa Deckman, professor of political science at Washington College, Michele Dillon, chair of the Sociology Department at the University of New Hampshire, and John Sides, associate professor of political science at George Washington University, responded to the surveys findings in three key areas: social and values issues, the economy, and the Catholic vote.