Washington Blade Blog on the values effect

Lots of interesting election analysis from Washington Blade Blog about the ‘moral values’ effect. Although various politicians, such as
California Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, is crediting the mass gay weddings as a factor – "It  gave [conservatives] a position to rally around. The whole issue has been too much, too  fast, too soon” – as Blade news editor Ken Sain points out other’s aren’t convinced:

Gay leaders — like Matt Foreman of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force — disagree, pointing out that while 2,796,147 Ohioans voted for President Bush, many more (3,249,157) voted in favor of the constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions. So obviously not all those who oppose equal rights for gay couples voted for President Bush.

But Sain’s colleague Steve Koval points to a perceptive critique of the Foreman argument by James Dao in the NYT:

Indeed, in Ohio, 221,000 more people voted for president than for
the constitutional amendment. But an analysis of several counties also
indicated that the drop-off in voting for the amendment was
significantly larger in Democratic counties than in Republican ones,
suggesting a higher sense of intensity about the measure among
Republicans.

In rural Shelby County in western Ohio, for
instance, the number of people who cast ballots for the amendment was
just 1.5 percent lower than those who voted for president. By
comparison, there was a 6 percent drop-off in heavily Democratic
Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.

Shelby County was
significant because it registered the largest increase in support for
Mr. Bush among Ohio’s 88 counties this year, a jump of eight percentage
points from 2000, to 71 percent, according to a Republican analysis.

John
Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron who has studied
religion in politics, said such figures indicated that fervent support
for the amendment in conservative areas might have caused turnout to
rise by as much as 3 or 4 percent. And that might have helped tip the
election to Mr. Bush in this most vital of states.

Staff writer Lou Chibbaro provides some additional detail on the exit poll data which puts the stats on gay marriage in a much more interesting light:

The exit poll also revealed that 26 percent of the respondents favor
allowing same-sex couples to "legally marry," 35 percent favor civil
unions for same-sex couples, and 36 percent favor "no legal
recognition" for same-sex couples.

Among those who said they
favor allowing gays to legally marry, 22 percent voted for Bush, 77
percent voted for Kerry and 1 percent voted for Nader, the exit poll
showed — that’s very close to the same candidate preference breakdown
for gay voters themselves.

Among those who favor allowing gays to
obtain civil unions, 51 percent said they voted for Bush, 48 percent
said they voted for Kerry, and 0 percent reported voting for Nader.
That candidate percentage breakdown is very close to the general split
in the U.S. popular vote between the candidates.

Among the voters
stating in the exit poll that they favor “no legal recognition” for
same-sex couples, 69 percent said they voted for Bush, 30 percent said
they voted for Kerry, and 1 percent reported voting for Nader, the exit
poll found.

On those figures a convincing 61% favour some kind of recognition for gay partnerships.

Steve Kovol points to the surprisingly insightful comments from conservative NYT columnist David Brooks writing on the ‘Values Vote Myth’:

Here are the facts. As Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center points out,
there was no disproportionate surge in the evangelical vote this year.
Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in
2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life.
Sixteen percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances.
There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily.

It’s true that Bush did get a few more evangelicals to vote Republican, but
Kohut, whose final poll nailed the election result dead-on, reminds us that
public opinion on gay issues over all has been moving leftward over the years.
Majorities oppose gay marriage, but in the exit polls Tuesday, 25 percent of the
voters supported gay marriage and 35 percent of voters supported civil unions.
There is a big middle on gay rights issues, as there is on most social
issues.

Much of the misinterpretation of this election derives from a poorly worded
question in the exit polls. When asked about the issue that most influenced
their vote, voters were given the option of saying "moral values." But that
phrase can mean anything — or nothing. Who doesn’t vote on moral values? If you
ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.

I think one of the really interesting things that doesn’t come out in this kind of polling data is the connections that exist for many people between "moral values" and national security. A standard trope in Bush’s war on terror rhetoric is: "they attack us because of our commitment to the values of liberty, freedom and democracy". His other trope is that these values of freedom and liberty are god given and thus the war on terror is divinely mandated. Thus "moral values" are at the heart of the war on terror and many Bush supporters would see the "attack on marriage" as a parallel "attack on America". The culture war and the terror war are parallel wars in the minds of many Americans. Remember Pat Robinson’s response to 9/11 and his blaming of gays feminists and abortionists for the attacks.

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