Friday, November 12, 2004


Moral values not as important in the election as some people think

Will Lester at picks up a point today that I saw Andy Kohut of the Pew Research Center making on the NewsHour the day after the election—that the supposed "moral values" motivation for voters was an artifact of the way the exit polls were conducted.

Whether voters named "moral values'' their key issue partly depended on whether that subject was included in a list of choices provided by pollsters, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released Thursday.

When "moral values'' was included in poll questions, it was named more often than any other issue. But when voters were just asked to name the issue most important in their vote for president _ without being given a list of answers -- moral values trailed the war in Iraq and the economy, according to the Pew survey.

Specifically, in polls conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the AP and the networks,

Twenty-two percent chose "moral values," followed by the economy (20 percent), terrorism (19 percent) and Iraq (15 percent)....

This corresponded roughly with the findings of the Pew Research Center. Of 1209 voters polled—

When those voters were given a list, "moral values" was the most popular choice at 27 percent, followed by Iraq at 22 percent and the economy at 21 percent.

But when they were asked an open-ended question about the top issue, Iraq and the economy moved past moral values. Iraq was picked by 27 percent, the economy by 14 percent and moral values tied with terrorism at 9 percent.

It should also be noted that those who responded "moral values" also included people who had something on their mind other than gay marriage and abortion—

Just over four in 10 of those who picked "moral values" from the list mentioned social issues like gay marriage and abortion, but others talked about qualities like religion, helping the poor, and candidates' honesty and strength of leadership.

But Kohut expressed it better on the NewsHour—

Moral values in a list of things that you're asking people what issues are on their mind, that's a an ambiguous term; it's a term that has a social desirability factor from the point of view of conservatives. If you put moral values on a list, it's hard for many people to say they weren't thinking of moral values when they were making their decision.

And, most importantly, we asked open-ended questions throughout the campaign, the moral values questions never rose to the level of the conditions questions, the Iraq, economy or terrorism. I think...

I'm not trying to understate the importance of moral values in this campaign and the importance of that issue, that cluster of issues to the Bush campaign and to the Republican Party, but I think there was an overstatement of that in the exit polls, and it's going to become part of the narrative that explains this election and perhaps not quite accurately. [emphasis added]

Moral values, at least as understood by the media, were certainly not on the minds of voters in Churchhill County, Nevada—

Last week, the small county in northern Nevada voted 71 per cent for the re-election of President George W. Bush....

On the same ballot, voters also crushed an effort to ban the county's legalized brothels by a margin of nearly 2-1.

The Coalition to End Prostitution in Churchill County was devastated. The warmth of support for prostitution may lead to the reopening of two brothels in the area.

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