Brookings Institution scholar and co-author of the 2013 Economic Values Survey E.J. Dionne contributed significantly to the conversation on the report’s findings during the July 18 launch event and panel discussion at Brookings, highlighting in particular the relationship between religion and social justice.
“Among people of faith in general, there is strong support for greater economic fairness and compassion toward those in need,” he said, adding that the trend applies even to those who are conservative in their theological views and attitudes toward social issues.
Dionne highlighted the report’s findings that 66 percent of theological conservatives and 63 percent of social conservatives support increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour and noted that more than 6-in-10 theological conservatives and social conservatives say promoting equality and fairness should be an important value guiding government policy.
“They feel similarly about providing a public safety net for people facing hardships,” he said, adding that a majority (62 percent) also believes it’s the government’s responsibility to take care of those in need. “Such findings would point to the potential vigor of a broad movement on behalf of social justice, yet there are countervailing forces,” Dionne said.
Some of those forces include the report’s finding that three-in-five (59 percent) Americans believe the government has become bigger because it has gotten involved in things people should do for themselves, and that half (50 percent) of Americans believe the government provides social services that should be left to religious groups and private charities. He said though the majority (54 percent) of Americans support government activism to promote economic growth in principle, a much larger majority (66 percent) believe the federal government is mostly or completely broken.
“People want the government to do more, but they have great doubts about whether the government will do it well,” he said. Still, he said, it “seems reasonable to believe that in the United States today there remains a large market for hope” for a better and more just tomorrow.