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The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, November 13, 2004

Angry white evangeicals?

I've been saying this for a week: national security was the MAJOR issue in this election, despite the claims of Democratic elites that it was "moral values" that cost them the election.

But I can't say it as well - or effectively - as Charles Krauthammer.

The 'Moral Values' Myth:
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.

Look at the choices:

Education, 4 percent.
Taxes, 5 percent.
Health Care, 8 percent.
Iraq, 15 percent.
Terrorism, 19 percent.
Economy and Jobs, 20 percent.
Moral Values, 22 percent.

'Moral values' encompass abortion, gay marriage, Hollywood's influence, the general coarsening of the culture and, for some, the morality of preemptive war. The way to logically pit this class of issues against the others would be to pit it against other classes: 'war issues' or 'foreign policy issues' (Iraq plus terrorism) and 'economic issues' (jobs, taxes, health care, etc).

If you pit group against group, the moral values class comes in dead last: war issues at 34 percent, economic issues variously described at 33 percent and moral values at 22 percent -- i.e., they are at least a third less salient than the others.

In this poll, I would have been torn between answering "Iraq" or "Terrorism," because I am one of those Fox News watching boobs that thinks the two are related - despite the preponderance of evidence provided by CBS and the New York Times.

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