The Mixed Message of 'Moral Values'
Christian groups are exulting that 21% of voters cited 'moral values' as key. But 79% of the American public did not.
BY: Steven Waldman
As an editor of a website about religion and values, I have an institutional bias toward relentlessly highlighting the effect of these issues, which the media too often ignore.
But let's not get carried away. Yes, faith and morality played a crucial role; but it's important to decipher the proper message.
First, much has been made of the fact that in exit polls 21% cited "moral values" as the key to their vote. This surprised some analysts because earlier polls had emphasized the importance of the economy, Iraq, or terror.
It's worth starting with the observation that 79% of the American public did not think moral values were the most important issue.
What we saw this week was not a seismic shift of public opinion toward morality-based issues, but rather a successful effort by the Bush campaign to find voters who cared most about those issues and get them to the polls.