Why Bush Won
Moral values, anti-gay marriage initatives, and more black support united a new coalition of religious voters.
George W. Bush has won re-election as President exactly as his campaign planned - on the strength of his appeal among religious conservatives. The surprise twist in this outcome, though, is that Bush's success drew upon a diverse coalition of religious voters. Three voting trends provide particular insight into the election outcome, and also are suggestive of where the administration and U.S. politics are headed.
First, "moral values" - which is code language for voter opposition to gay marriage and abortion - was the top concern among presidential voters (named by 22%, higher even than terrorism or the economy), according to national exit polling data. This is a remarkable finding, given that moral values barely registered as a campaign concern in national polls over the past several months. Clearly, religious conservatives turned out to vote in large numbers.
Second, anti-gay marriage initiatives on ballots in 11 states all passed with sizeable majorities (Oregon's 57-43 margin was the closest). This undoubtedly worked to the advantage of Bush - most importantly in Ohio, where support for an initiative banning gay marriage came in at roughly 62% overall and at 86% among white voters self-identifying as evangelical or as "born-again."
Third, Bush's support among African Americans was much higher in several key states Tuesday than in 2000. Exit polls indicate that Bush received 16% of votes by Ohio blacks (up from 9% four years ago) and 13% of votes by Florida blacks (up from 7% four years ago). Polls consistently show African Americans to be more religiously inclined than the rest of the population, and CBS' Ed Bradley speculated Tuesday night that Bush's opposition to abortion and gay marriage resonated among blacks. Indeed, 61% of African Americans in Ohio supported an initiative banning same-sex marriages.
Lastly, exit polls also indicate that Bush's support rose from 2000 among Catholics (up 5% to 52%) and Jewish Americans (up 6% to 25%). Put simply, people of religious faith gravitated toward Bush, or at least away from his Democratic Party opponent, in greater numbers than in 2000.