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Friday, November 12, 2004

Election Reflections: The Moral Values Myth

A question has been rattling around in my head since the elections:
If the exit polls were so wrong, why are they being relied on for the number one reason for voting for President Bush? Admittedly, moral values certainly were motivators, but absolutely noone had that as a reason until the day of the election. Didn't make sense, but fit with one of the reasons I voted for President Bush, so I blew off the question.

Hooray for Charles Krauthammer, who did not blow off the question. His in depth analysis is must reading for any intelligent discussion of the election, and the post election world we live in. Here's a sample:

In the post-election analyses, the liberal elite, led by the holy trinity of the New York Times -- Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd -- just about lost its mind denouncing the return of medieval primitivism. As usual, Dowd achieved the highest level of hysteria, cursing the Republicans for pandering to "isolationism, nativism, chauvinism, puritanism and religious fanaticism" in their unfailing drive to "summon our nasty devils."

Whence comes this fable? With President Bush increasing his share of the vote among Hispanics, Jews, women (especially married women), Catholics, seniors and even African Americans, on what does this victory-of-the-homophobic-evangelical voter rest?

Its origins lie in a single question in the Election Day exit poll. The urban myth grew around the fact that "moral values" ranked highest in the answer to Question J: "Which ONE issue mattered most in deciding how you voted for president?"

It is a thin reed upon which to base a General Theory of the '04 Election. In fact, it is no reed at all. The way the question was set up, moral values were sure to be ranked disproportionately high. Why? Because it was a multiple-choice question, and moral values cover a group of issues, while all the other choices were individual issues. Chop up the alternatives finely enough, and moral values are sure to get a bare plurality over the others.

Read the whole thing. Read it twice. Makes a whole lot of sense, and has stopped the question rolling around in my head.


  1. Isn't it morally imperative to stay out of other people's business? Why did so many come out to ratify bans on gay marriage, when there are more important issues at stake?

    Are gay people really _that_ scary?

  2. One of the downsides of Blog Explosion is hit and run commenting.
    Chris, my partner on this site is gay. He and I have an ongoing dialogue about many issues. This is one of them. Please don't do the homophobe bit. It doesn't fly here, and only weakens any intellectual argument you may have.
    I would like nothing more than just let folks be. However, marriage has been and continues to be a Sacrament between a man and a woman. The gay agenda wishes to change that through the courts. It has met resounding resistance everywhere the agenda has been put to a vote.
    See some of the previous posts between Jon and I on this topic.